'Emirati Dads' exhibition at Expo 2020 shines spotlight on shared parenting

Two photographs from the Swedish pavilion gallery are also on display in the Women's pavilion

LIVE BLOG: Latest on Expo 2020 Dubai here

The importance of fathers doing their fair share of parenting has been illustrated in a photography exhibition at the Swedish pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The pictures show Emirati and Swedish dads performing everyday family tasks, such as feeding their children, playing, doing their hair and adjusting their taqiyah, the cap worn under the headscarf.

I think we have a balanced way – so when my wife is tired I will help her, and when I am tired she will help me. That is how life goes on
Abdul Rahman, Emirati dad

Alanood Ghazi Mubarak, who took several of the photographs, said the heartwarming portraits had an important message.

"In Sweden they have laws where fathers actually have parenting leave, and they raise their kids. They don't just spend time with them, they play a huge role," said Ms Mubarak, a freelance photographer in Dubai.

"By taking part in this exhibition, I wanted to show from an Emirati's perspective that we do have fathers that play a role in teaching the kids and playing with them all the time, and even teaching them how to wear the traditional attire."

The Swedish - Emirati Dads exhibition was inspired by the work of a Swedish photographer, Johan Baevman, and is designed to promote gender equality by acknowledging that the road to an equal society starts with men helping out at home.

The organisers of the Swedish pavilion hope that the personal stories illustrated in the photographs will initiate conversations on the advantages of sharing parental leave and duties.

Visitors to Expo 2020 Dubai will also be prompted to discuss how an increased role for fathers can enable women to progress in their careers and, as a consequence, increase gender equality.

Abdul Rahman, 25, who is featured in one of the pictures with his 1-year old Omar, said he tries to spend quality time with his son before going to work.

"I believe most Emirati dads are like me. It is important of course to share the responsibility of parenting – as a father I am responsible for my son," said Mr Rahman, who is an environmental inspection specialist.

"I think we have a balanced way – so when my wife is tired I will help her, and when I am tired she will help me. That is how life goes on."

"I like to read to my son, Laith, and show him the world through pictures," said Sultan Karrani, 44, who is also featured in the exhibition.

"I prepare him to fulfil his dreams and go into space. It is very important as a father to support your child’s dreams from an early age.

"For the time that I am out of my work, my son likes to sit with me, rather than his mother who he sees all the time."

Mainak Biswas, who took several of the photographs, including the one of Sultan and Laith, 4, said he wanted to capture candid moments of Emirati dads interacting with their children.

"Mothers and fathers should be equal in the family but generally it happens that if fathers are working in the office, they might not get as much equal time to spend with their children," said Mr Biswas, who works as a family portrait and travel photographer and as a blogger for the website Places in Pixels.

"That is why it is important that countries are coming up with these parental leave policies."

Equality in the UAE

The UAE was the first country in the region to introduce parental leave in 2021, to encourage fathers to spend time with their babies.

Under the new law, private companies should give men and women employees five days of paid parental leave, to be taken within six months of the child's birth.

Women working in the private sector are entitled to 45 days of paid maternity leave, provided they have served continuously for at least a year.

Women working in government departments in the UAE are given 90 days of paid leave.

Ms Mubarak said she believed UAE society was becoming more equal.

"In Sweden you will see fathers changing diapers, cleaning the house – gender equality is there 100 per cent thanks to the parental leave laws, and they have got used to it from the societal aspect," she said.

"Maybe now in the UAE the new generation have started to pick this up – to have a partnership model. Most of the men in these pictures are not millennials but they are already doing things differently.

"Now you see more and more where both parents contribute to raising the kids."

The Swedish - Emirati Dads exhibition is on display at the Swedish pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai until October 30, and two images are also on show at the Women's pavilion.

Updated: October 26th 2021, 4:09 AM