Feminine voices speak up in Fujairah

Three of the nominees are women - and they hope to see change.

FNC campaign posters like this one in Fujairah are steadily popping up around the Emirates. Silvia Razgova / The National
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FUJAIRAH // Better hospitals, jobs that will keep the youth in the emirate and a "feminine" voice to stand for women's issues are some of the main issues that candidates in the eastern emirate are addressing as they compete for two seats.

"Rebuilding our mountain villages and improving the infrastructure near and around our homes is one of my main concerns," said Abdullah Rashid Al Yammahi, 35, a candidate from the mountainous tribe of Al Yammahi.

Candidates have opted for traditional strategies, instead of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. They are instead relying on word of mouth, and door-to-door meetings, with some opening up a majlis at their homes and others booking public places like hotel halls to speak to voters.

Posters of the candidates were already hanging on poles and standing on plaques near roundabout and major intersections across Fujairah and Dibba.

Holding a blue poster, Mr Al Yammahi will go to his tribe members with his plans.

"There is a lot to be done, and there many unemployed Emiratis that can do the job," he said.

As a former army man, a previous manager at the Masafi municipality and currently working at the National Energy and Crisis Management Authority in Fujairah, Mr Al Yammahi said he has first-hand experience at "handling crisis".

Three of the 21 candidates are women who are not just competing against 18 men, but against centuries of tradition where women play a subordinate role in a largely conservative emirate.

"It is really hard for us women," said Mouza Saeed Nowaylah, 24. "We can't even put up our pictures on posters like the rest of the candidates because they will frown upon it."

As the youngest candidate running this year, Ms Nowaylah, a writer and media personality, put forward her candidacy to encourage young women to stand against obstacles and have their voices heard.

"People are surprised that I am a candidate, and say to me, 'what can you, a single young Emirati woman do?' I tell them, just wait and see. I will be the voice most heard at the FNC meetings," Ms Nowaylah said.

The other two women are teachers, and their focus on health and education includes revising school curricula, improving relationships between teachers and students and changing the retirement age for teachers.

"I really want to reduce the amount of books the youngest students end up carrying on a daily basis," said Roya Al Ghelayni, 36, a teacher for 12 years.

Mrs Al Ghelayni is determined that one of the seats goes to a woman.

"We are not going to let it go to a male," she said.

Aisha Khamees Ali is the third candidate, and she said she is lucky to have her husband as the manager of her campaign.

"He helps in everything, and has been arranging for meetings with our friends and the public," said Mrs Ali, who has opened a majlis to greet potential voters.

The election committee in Fujairah was visited by candidates asking for last-minute approvals of their posters and brochures, and change of venues.

One of the candidates, Ahmed bin Ghaem, withdrew from the race. His withdrawal is pending approval.

"It is for personal reasons," he said.

According to the committee, everything went well the first day of campaigning.

"There is great excitement and energy," said Brigadier Mohammed Ahmed bin Ghanem Al Kaabi, the chairman.