History Project: Years of progress

A list of the achievements and milestones of the country's women.
Egyptian singer Najat Al Saghira performs the UAE national anthem  in Abu Dhabi for National Day in 1972. Courtesy Al Ittihad
Egyptian singer Najat Al Saghira performs the UAE national anthem in Abu Dhabi for National Day in 1972. Courtesy Al Ittihad


December 2 For a celebration of the country’s first National Day, the Egyptian singer Najat Al Saghira sings the new national anthem at a concert for VIPs organised by the Ministry of Information and Tourism.


February 8 Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi opens the Abu Dhabi Women’s Association. A similar group is founded in Sharjah the same year. (The Dubai’s Women’s Association was established in 1968.)

April 7 Umm Al Quwain’s first society for women is formed; its chair is the wife of Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Mualla.

May 6 The Girl Scouts are established in the UAE. Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah and chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, opened the first chapter.


May 29 It is decided that women’s societies in the UAE will be amalgamated under the General Women’s Union under the patronage of Sheikha Fatima, who is elected the group’s president at the Conference of Women’s Societies in the UAE.


May 29 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, orders the establishment of a permanent headquarters for the General Women’s Union and opens the second exhibition of the Abu Dhabi Women’s Association.

August 27 The General Women’s Union is established.


A women’s association is established in Ras Al Khaimah.


April 26 Female students are admitted to UAE University for the first time.


April 18 Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai, attends the graduation ceremonies of 12 new groups of policewomen.

August 15 The Council of Ministers approves maternity leave of up to 45 days with full pay, to be taken before or after delivery.


February 24 Sheikha Fatima meets Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, who is on an official visit to the UAE, to outline the achievements of the General Women’s Union. She later visits the Queen in Britain at her invitation in June of 1981.

May 1 Sheikh Zayed visits the second training session for the women’s police force at the Police Academy.


February 17 Sheikha Fatima opens the Al Ain branch of the Abu Dhabi Women’s Association.


April 22 Sheikha Fatima meets the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who is on an official visit to the UAE, to discuss the role of women in the UAE and the world.

December 6 Sheikha Fatima receives Queen Sofia, the wife of Spanish King Juan Carlos, who visits the headquarters of the General Women’s Union.


March 1

The first female graduates of UAE University are commended by Sheikha Fatima, who delivers a speech about the importance of educating women.


April 12 Sheikh Zayed attends the opening of Abu Dhabi Women’s Association’s headquarters in Al Bateen and speaks about how women have the important responsibility of bringing up future generations.

April 13 Sheikha Fatima attends the first Festival of Childhood at the Abu Dhabi Women’s Association headquarters; Sheikh Zayed attends the next day.


March 24 Sheikh Zayed and Sheikha Fatima open the third Regional Women’s Conference in the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, hosted by the UAE.

May 18 The nation goes into mourning after it is announced that Sheikha Latifa bint Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the wife of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, has died.

September Abu Dhabi’s Corniche Hospital opens its dedicated maternity unit catering to women across the emirate.


February 6 Sheikha Fatima presides over the first meeting of the Aid Committee for the victims of the famine in Africa.

February 20 Sheikha Fatima addresses a meeting of the Council of Mothers of Abu Dhabi Educational Region.

July 10 The General Women’s Union participates in the UN World Conference on Women in Nairobi.


April 30 Sheikha Fatima attends the opening of the new headquarters for the Umm Al Quwain Women’s Society.

December 31 Sheikh Zayed opens the Handicrafts Centre at the General Women’s Union headquarters.


April 25 Sheikha Mouza bint Abdul­aziz Al Qasimi becomes the first UAE woman to be elected to the presidency of the board of administration of a public welfare society, the Emirates Society for the Care and Training of the Handicapped in Sharjah.


October 12 Sheikha Fatima visits Egypt to form an Arab Women’s Union.

December 5 Sheikh Zayed opens the 11th Arab Conference of Girl Scouts in the Abu Dhabi Cultural Complex.


August 15 Sheikha Fatima orders the forming of a women’s committee to assist Kuwaiti families in finding accommodation in the UAE after their country was invaded by Iraq.


February 6 The UAE’s first test-tube baby is born in Al Ain’s Tawam Hospital.

December 5 Sheikh Zayed visits the Abu Dhabi Women’s Association exhibition to mark National Day.


December 9 Sheikh Zayed issues a federal law related to the Marriage Fund, to encourage Emirati marriages by granting them Dh70,000 for expenses.


Ras Al Khaimah Women’s College opens.


A report for the 4th International Women’s Conference says university enrolment has risen 400 per cent in a decade with women now representing 68.4 per cent of students.


A group of expatriate women in Abu Dhabi set up the International Business Women’s Group to help professional women meet and network.

September 4 Members of the General Women’s Union attend the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China.


Sheikha Fatima announces that women should participate in the political system.


The opening of Zayed University, the first university for women.


The Federal National Council amends the employment law and increases maternity leave for Emiratis to three months with full pay, and a further six months at half pay.


Dr Rafia Ghubash is appointed dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the UAE University in Al Ain.


The Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood is established.

A new civil service law rules that women who are divorced, widowed or supporting orphan children are entitled to receive social welfare.


Women’s literacy rates are officially recorded this year at 80.7 per cent, higher than the male literacy rate of 75.6 per cent.


November 1 Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi becomes the first woman in Government when she is appointed Minister of Economy and Planning.


December 16 Women vote in the first election for the Federal National Council (about 1,100 are eligible in the 6,000-plus electoral college), resulting in the first elected female representative, the architect Dr Amal Al Qubaisi (Abu Dhabi). Eight women are also appointed, giving them nine out of 40 seats.

The Family Development Foundation is established.

Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum wins the silver medal in the over-60kg karate championship at the Asian Games in Doha.


July The Dubai Foundation for Women and Children becomes the first licensed and non-profit shelter to provide refuge for victims of domestic violence, child abuse and human trafficking.


August 8 Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (tae kwon do) carries the United Arab Emirates flag in the Summer Olympics’ opening ceremony in Beijing.

Sheikha Najla Al Qassimi and Dr Hessa Abduallah Al Otaiba are appointed the UAE’s first female ambassadors, to Sweden and Spain respectively.

Sheikha Lubna is made Minister of Foreign Trade.


November 22-24 Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum wins two silver medals at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, in the equestrian jumping individual and team events.

November 26 Sheikh Zayed Bridge, designed by the female British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, is completed.


January 26 Friends of Cancer Patients launches the Pink Caravan campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer and screening.

September 24 Just under half of the 129,274 eligible voters in the FNC elections are women (up from about 20 per cent in 2006). One woman, Dr Sheikha Al Ari (Umm Al Quwain), wins; the Government appoints eight women out of 20 appointees. Dr Al Qubaisi, the first female elected representative, is appointed, and later becomes the council’s first deputy speaker, the first woman to take on that role in the GCC.

December 2 Sheikh Khalifa decrees that the children of national women and foreign men will get UAE citizenship.


March 13 Sheikha Lubna is made Minister for International Cooperation and Development.

May Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah and chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, is appointed the first Eminent Advocate for the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees.


October Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi become the first Arab woman to serve on the International Publishers Association’s executive committee since its founding in 1896.

October 17 In a regional first, it is announced that the Women’s Forum, the largest gathering for leaders from around the world to discuss women’s issues, will be coming to Dubai in 2016, presided over by Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid, the president of the Dubai’s Women Establishment, which will be organising the event.

For more female career firsts, see page 10.

Key sources: Chronicle of Progress: 25 Years of Development in the United Arab Emirates, eds Ibrahim Al Abed, Paula Vine and Abdullah Al Jabali, London: Trident Press, 1996; the Women’s Museum in Dubai (womenmuseumuae.com).

Published: December 1, 2014 04:00 AM


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