Maj Mariam Al Mansouri, the country’s first female fighter pilot, was honoured this week at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for “battling stereotypes, and terror, from the air”.
She was among nine people who received the Asia Society’s Game Changer Award, including Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao, who received the top award, and Indian-American comedian Aasif Mandvi.
The award recognised people who make a positive difference to the future of Asia and the world.
Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, UAE Permanent Representative to the UN, attended the ceremony along with other officials and diplomatic staff.
She congratulated Maj Al Mansouri and said the recognition was an honour for all Emirati women who seek to attain excellence in all fields, reported the state news agency, Wam.
Maj Al Mansouri is a pilot of an F-16 fighter for the Air Force, and a highly trained, combat-ready pilot and wing leader.
She was a member of the team participating in coalition air strikes against ISIL terrorists in Syria.
She has also received the Mohammed bin Rashid Pride of the Emirates medal, named for the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, for her excellence in the field.
Maj Al Mansouri, the first squadron leader in the Air Force, has set a living example of women’s role in a moderate, tolerant Muslim country such as the UAE, said Ms Nusseibeh, who welcomed the Government’s policy regarding empowerment for women leaders.
“Mariam Al Mansouri was a teenager in the United Arab Emirates when she first dreamed of becoming a pilot for her country’s military,” the Asia Society said.
“There was just one problem: women weren’t allowed. Her dream seemingly a non-starter, Al Mansouri nevertheless joined the Army in the hopes that the rules would one day change. Eventually, they did.”
She was one of the first women to join the Air Force Academy and became the UAE’s first female fighter pilot in 2007, the society said.
Maj Al Mansouri “has emphasised that she’s never felt the need to compete with her male peers,” the society said, quoting her as saying: “Competing with oneself is conducive to continued learning.”
The award came as Ms Nusseibeh announced that the UAE will donate US$500,000 (Dh1.8 million) to UN Women – an organisation dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
She said that including women’s perspectives in peace building is essential to creating functional societies.
She made the announcement to the UN Security Council during an open debate on women, peace and security, where there were also congratulations to Maj Al Mansouri.
“There is no better counter to [ISIL’s] destructive narrative than the example she provides of the role and impact of women, peace and security in a moderate, tolerant Muslim nation,” Ms Nusseibeh said.