Gender equality and role of women in economic development of the UAE: A Report

On 8 September 2022, Ambassador of the UAE to India, Dr Ahmad Al Banna held a

virtual talk with the Academics for Nation on “Gender Equality, Women Empowerment and their Role in Economic Development of the UAE”.



On 8 September 2022 at 12.15, Ambassador of the UAE to India, Dr Ahmad Al Banna held a

virtual talk with the Academics for Nation. The talk was on “Gender Equality, Women Empowerment and their Role in Economic Development of the UAE”. The discussion was moderated by Prof Tej Pratap Singh, Department of Peace and conflict, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and Dr. Amit Singh, Senior Assistance Prof. Department of Political Science, University of Delhi, Delhi. Large number of the audience joined the talk.


Ambassador Al Banna thanked both the moderators for holding the talk. Dr. Al Banna underlined that the UAE paid special attention to harness the potential of women which comprise half of the Emirati population. This would not be possible with giving special privileges to them. Today, Emirati women are active in all walks of lives, including administration, representing the nation abroad as ambassadors, government departments, heading the private companies, academic and non-academic portfolios.      


Looking at the importance of women and their energetic participation, in 2015 Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, 1 Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union [1]  marked the 28th of August as the Emirati Women’s Day in UAE. The day also honors the creation of UAE’s General Women’s Union in 1975. This year’s theme of Women’s day was “Inspiring Reality. Sustainable Future”.


The UAE has achieved significant progress in recent years on the legislative, institutional, and strategic levels for women empowerment. It has established parity of representation in parliament, the Federal National Council. Nine women are serving in the cabinet and all listed companies are required to appoint at least one woman to sit on their boards.


The Ambassador highlighted some of the UAE’s pioneering women who continue to empower others fellow beings are:  HE Sarah Al-Amiri, UAE’s Minister of State for Advanced Technology/Chairwoman, UAE Space Agency, HE Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and CEO of Expo City Dubai Authority, HE Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, HE Sheikha Mozah Al Maktoum, the UAE’s first female commercial pilot, HE Mariam Bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Ms Nora Al Matrooshi, the UAE’s first female Emirati and Arab astronaut, Ms Nayla Al Khaja, the country’s first female Emirati filmmaker and Ms Zahra Lari, the first Emirati figure skater.


Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Future Technology is elevated to the Chairperson of the UAE Space Agenda and lead scientist of the team of the Mars Mission which comprises 80% women.


The world agencies have also acknowledged the contributions and role of Emirati women.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Gender Gap report, the UAE is ranked as a leading country in gender equality in the (Middle East) region.


It has closed 65.5 % of its overall gender gap; 1 President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation also known as The Mother of the Nation.


Over 77 % of Emirati women are enrolled in higher education after secondary school;

70 % of all university graduates in the UAE are women. 61 % of university graduates in scientific fields are women. They have shown interest in STEM. This is a revolutionary change in the pattern of education in the UAE.


The report, ‘Non-executive Board Careers in the UAE: A Path to Gender Balance,’ which was

sponsored by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), reveals that 77 of the 868 board seats from the 115 listed companies on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) and the Dubai Financial Market (DFM), are now held by women.

 

According to a research undertaken by Aurora50, a social enterprise working towards gender parity in GCC boardrooms, and Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG), the continued efforts to improve gender diversity in the boardroom have led to more women holding board positions this year to 8.9 %, up from 3.5 % in 2020.

 

On Economic front the achievements of women are remarkable. The number of licensed companies owned by women has reached 80,025, with over 32,000 businesswomen managing projects worth more than US$10 billion.

 

The efforts of the UAE to empower women have not been confined to its national boundaries. It has taken a proactive step at regional and global level. For instance, In June 2017, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously passed a draft resolution put forth by the UAE during the 35th session of the Council in Geneva on girls’ right to receive an education. The UAE provided 10.7 % of its total foreign aid (about US$851 million) in 2019 to protect and empower women and girls. The UAE was a co-founder of the Women Entrepreneurs Fund, established by the World Bank in cooperation with 13 donor countries, and provided approximately US$50 million in support as of 2017.

 

Here, I stop by sharing the words of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-

President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai which HH had made ahead of this year’s: “Emirati Women Day” that 85% of the staff in his office are women. About 70% of the graduates are women in the UAE. Women in the UAE are dedicated to education and knowledge. Women are the soul and spirit of the country”.


Q&A

During the Q&A Ambassador answered the questions raised by the audience:  (1)  How much Islam and Sharia are compatible with gender equality, women empowerment, education and freedom to pursue economic lives; (2) reaction of the patriarch to so much freedom to women and what role state has undertaken to promote women in the UAE; and (3) how the UAE is different from other Arab countries and why it is not the role model in Arab world?

 

Responding to their questions, the ambassador underlined that neither Islam nor Sharia is a hurdle in women’s progress and empowerment. Its media and some people have depicted wrong image of both, Islam and Sharia. Both Islam and Sharia have perfectly compatible to women’s progress for the last 100s of years. However, there has been some resistance from the elderly generation but the young and the upcoming generation is quite comfortable as everything is soothingly progressing in consonance with Arab culture and Islam.


Among the audience, some were from Indians who are living in the UAE for the last 14 years

endorsed and praised the view of the ambassador and said everything has been so good there. The audience was amazed by the statistics, especially the 70% graduates in UAE are women and 85% staff in HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai office are women. The moderator Prof Tej Pratap Singh underlined that the achievements UAE has made in the field of women empowerment should not make the UAE only the role model in the Arab and Muslim world but to the entire world as in developed world, there is no example of 70% graduates are females.


The feedback of the audience of the discussion was very encouraging as it broke the stereotype image of the Arabs and Islam and how the UAE has achieved such as remarkable fete almost amazed all the attendants. They profusely thanked the Ambassador for breaking the stereotype image of Arab society and Islam who has also played a pivotal role in signing the fastest Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between India and the UAE. Such lectures not only promote better understanding about the UAE where 3.5 million Indians are living and working and considering the UAE as their second home but also strengthens the base of public diplomacy in India.


In his Vote of Thanks, Dr. Amit invited the Excellency to visit his campus as student are eager to meet and listen him in person. Hope the Excellency accepts his invitation. The Indians living in other courtiers such as Franc, Israel, the US was also connected with the event.


About Academics for Nation: it is platform organized for the purpose of promoting national ethos through education. Around 2500 people from academic backgrounds are connected with the forum.


Click here to watch the talk


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