FNC profiles: Advocate for the nation's daughters

The first Emirati woman to be elected to public office, Amal Abdullah al Qubaisi has worked to preserve the country's architectural heritage and defend the rights of mothers and children.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES Ð March 17, 2008: Amal Abdullah Jomaa Al Qubaisi, Member of the United Arab Emirates, Federal National Council speaks with members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Congress. (Photo by Ryan Carter / The Nation)
 *** Local Caption *** al21-influential8.jpg

Amal Abdullah al Qubaisi describes the moment on December 16, 2006, when she heard the FNC election results as one of the happiest in her life. On that day, she became the first Emirati woman elected to public office.
"It took women in America and Europe 100 years just to run in the elections," she told The National in 2008. "For us to have women in the council in such a short period is a huge achievement." Nearly four years after she took her place on the council, she is still one of its most dedicated members. She is a passionate advocate, in the FNC and elsewhere, for issues related to women, education, youth, children's health, scientific research and national identity.
Another pivotal moment in Dr al Qubaisi's political career occurred this March, when she took the podium during an international parliamentary conference in Bangkok to defend her country against a raft of accusations by an Israeli lawmaker. Majalli Wahabi, Israel's deputy foreign minister, said UAE leaders should be talking about women's rights in the Emirates instead of lobbying against Israel's actions designed to change the Islamic features of East Jerusalem.
Dr al Qubaisi, 40, reminded Mr Wahabi that, according to UN data, the Emirates ranked higher than Israel when it came to the empowerment of women; the UAE was 17th on the list, while Israel was ranked 24th. Dr al Qubaisi, who wrote her doctoral dissertation on the preservation of architectural heritage, has also worked with Unesco, the United Nations heritage agency, in Al Ain on conservation projects.
Her Unesco work, in which she helped to document more than 350 historical sites in order to gain national and international legal protection for them, was recognised with an Abu Dhabi Award in 2008. As a key member of the FNC's education, youth, media and culture committee, she participated in meetings, panels and public discussions that were attended by hundreds of experts and university students; she then helped draft a report outlining the policies of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development.
The committee used the ministry's role as a springboard to discuss and deal with a range of issues, including threats to the Arabic language and the UAE's cultural heritage, and the state of the country's sport and youth clubs. Dr al Qubaisi has also advocated better employment rights for women. In April, she appealed to the Government to give federal employees longer maternity leave. "The daughters of this nation are asking you to reconsider this issue today, before tomorrow," Ms al Qubaisi told an FNC meeting.
And earlier this month she spoke in favour of a Federal Supreme Court ruling that gave a woman the right to travel abroad with her children even if her husband objected. She described the ruling as a "road map" for lower courts to follow in order to implement the "spirit" of the family law, which ultimately "aims to ensure the integrity of the family". On FNC politics, Dr al Qubaisi has spoken openly about the need to give the advisory council more powers, and rebuked the Government in 2008 for ignoring some FNC recommendations that had been passed a year earlier.
Born: October 18, 1969 Education: Bachelor's degree in architecture from UAE University in 1993 Master's degree from University of Sheffield in 1995 PhD from University of Sheffield in 2000 Career 2000-2006: Assistant professor of architecture at UAE University; 2001-2003: President of the cultural heritage unit of Al Ain's Tourism and Economic Development Authority; 2007: Elected member of FNC for Abu Dhabi. President of the education, youth, media and culture committee. Member of health, labour and social affairs committee