UAE is putting women in the boardroom and in space, minister tells UN meeting in Geneva

Between 2019 and 2021, the Emirates passed 11 laws and amendments to promote equality, says Hessa Buhumaid

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - H.E. Hessa Bint Essa Buhumaid,  Minister of Community Development speaks at the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi press conference at Hyatt Capital Gate on February 7, 2018. (Khushnum Bhandari/ The National)
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The UAE has put in place laws and policies to end inequality and discrimination against women, a Cabinet minister said.

Women from more than 200 countries live in the Emirates and the government is pushing to empower all of them, Hessa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development, said at the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

The conference was held in Geneva on Tuesday.

From passing a law on equal pay in 2018, to equal representation in the Federal National Council, the country's parliament, and even training women to go to space — the UAE has made serious efforts to empower women and gender equality.

“On the level of the legislative and institutional environment supporting women’s empowerment, it can be said that the years 2019 to 2021 were distinguished years for women in the UAE,” she said.

“During this time, the country issued 11 new laws and legislative amendments, all of which were focused on promoting women’s rights and empowering them in all fields, in addition to their key role in the strategy of the next 50 years for the UAE.

"Women have an important role to play in sustainable development, so gender must be taken into account as we strengthen national mechanisms for gender equality.”

Empowering women in the workplace

Women in the UAE represent 30 per cent of the population. There are nine female Cabinet ministers, which is 27 per cent of the country's parliamentary body.

They also represent 24 per cent of board members at federal and local entities.

In education, women make up 76 per cent of the teachers at primary and secondary schools, and 37 per cent of the teaching staff at higher education institutions.

In the health sector, about 63 per cent of the workers are women. This includes doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, radiologists and laboratory technicians.

The percentage of female pupils enrolled from kindergarten to secondary school stands at 50 per cent while the percentage of female students at universities and other institutes of higher education is 45 per cent.

Up to 37,340 women are employed by public institutions, making up 26 per cent of the total workforce.

Women are also leading in Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), making up 61 per cent of graduates in the UAE, as opposed to 57 per cent in the Arab World, according to Unesco.

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Laws to accelerate gender balance

Over the years, the government has passed several laws to support women at home and in the workplace.

For example, in 2019, the Cabinet adopted a family protection policy aimed at tackling domestic violence and the abuse of children, women and the elderly.

In the same year, a law granted women equal pay, making the UAE the first country in the region with such legislation.

There are currently no jobs restricted to men and which women are not allowed to apply for.

There are 32,000 Emirati businesswomen who run projects worth about Dh40 billion ($10.9bn).

Last year, a personal status law for non-Muslim residents was introduced for the first time, granting women equal custody of their children.

A no-fault divorce clause also granted women the rights to an immediate divorce and removed the need to prove that a fault had been committed.

A countrywide gender balance strategy for the period from 2022 to 2026 was also recently approved.

The strategy aims to position the UAE as a global model for gender balance. It includes four pillars and its main objectives are economic participation, entrepreneurship, financial inclusion, well-being and quality of life, protection, leadership, and global partnerships.

Celebrating women

Every year on August 28, the country celebrates Emirati Women's Day where the achievements and contributions of women are commended.

“The celebration comes from the leadership's belief in the importance of women's contributions and their effective role in sustainable development,” Ms Buhumaid said.

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Updated: June 23, 2022, 1:37 PM