Emirati women are participating in the International Women’s Day celebrations today alongside women from around the world, in view of the many changes and developments in the lives of UAE women, which gives them hope and the ambition to rise to the nation’s expectations through their various achievements in different areas of work.
This year, Emirati women made outstanding progress in their continuing journey on many fronts, as they represent a symbol of women’s development all over the world.
This year’s International Women’s Day celebrations are taking place during the #Year of Giving, as declared by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union, Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, said that the theme of this year’s UAE women’s celebrations will be, "Women are Partners in Giving", a slogan that complies with their capacity to implement the directives of the UAE leadership to promote giving around the nation and abroad, and to reach out to people who need help wherever they are.
The developments that have occurred in the lives of Emirati women are due to the efforts of the founding father of the nation, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who called for the empowerment of women, if they were to have a major role in society and participate in the nation’s ambitious developments. He also supported their right to raise a family, and their right to work in various national sectors. The UAE leadership followed in the steps of Sheikh Zayed, as President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Their Highnesses the Rulers of the Emirates, gave women the right to participate with men in all fields of work and empowered them politically, economically, socially and culturally. They also supported women’s education, health and community care to encourage their serious career progression.
The outstanding progress of Emirati women was supported by the Leader of Women’s Work, the Mother of the UAE, H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, who values Emirati women as important human capital in society. She said that the achievements accomplished in women’s empowerment reflected the directives of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who supports women’s political empowerment. She highlighted the success of Emirati women in all sectors, as they now represent 66 percent of national employees, 34 percent of private sector employees and 70 percent of those enrolled in higher education, which has led to the appointment of a female speaker of the Federal National Council.
The UAE has always been keen to adopt a range of measures for women’s empowerment, including the establishment of a series of national systems for representing women’s foundations and supporting women’s development, such as the General Women’s Union that drafts strategic national strategies for women’s development, the Family Development Foundation in Abu Dhabi, the Women’s Development Foundation in Dubai, the Sharjah Supreme Family Council and the Supreme Motherhood and Childhood Council.
The UAE joined the convention to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, as well as nine international conventions on regulating working hours, equal pay and other benefits, and drafted legislation that provides legal protection for women and criminalises violence against women, including a new law to combat human trafficking.
In 2015, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, declared the establishment of the UAE Gender Balance Council, presided over by H.H. Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Women’s Establishment and wife of H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.
In his speech during the second day of the recent World Government Summit, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said that the UAE’s civilised journey would not be complete without the significant role of Emirati women as main partners in the nation’s development, pointing out the great achievements of women in a vast array of sectors, including politics, aviation, economics, entrepreneurship, management and sports.
Last October, the General Women’s Union attended the opening of the United Nations Women’s Office, the focal point for co-ordination between the international organisation and women from GCC countries. As host nation to the office, the UAE covered the expenses of the office’s opening and hired its administrative personnel, in co-ordination with the UN.
The journey of women’s empowerment has seen many advances in all fields since the launch of the national strategy for Emirati women’s empowerment by H.H Sheikha Fatma bint Mubarak in March 2015. The strategy is the main reference for all federal and local authorities, especially civil society organisations.
The strategy seeks to empower Emirati women and build their capacities, and overcome obstacles that threaten their participation in all fields of work. It also aims to be a major partner in achieving sustainable development and a role model for women’s empowerment at local, regional and international levels, by achieving its priorities.
The first priority is adding to the UAE’s achievements, maintaining these achievements, and continuing the enhancing of Emirati women’s capacities to guarantee an increase in their participation.
The second is to promote social unity and coherence by achieving equality between men and women, to build a strong and coherent society.
The third is to provide women with a good, high-quality and secure life.
The fourth is to promote the values of leadership and responsibility and to strengthen the Emirati women’s position at international and regional events.
The General Women’s Union launched numerous activities and programmes for raising women’s capacities, including the "Your Body is a Responsibility" initiative under the patronage of the Armed Forces National Authority. It also held several awareness workshops about the importance of healthy eating habits and physical exercise for women and children.
The General Women’s Union launched another important initiative on International Safer Internet Day, when it invited participating parties from the Ministry of Interior and the Communication Organisation Authority, along with students as the target audience. It also held a press release to highlight the importance of advising the nation's youth on safe internet use, particularly with social media.
A Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, was signed between the General Women’s Union and the Sub-Regional Office for the Food and Agriculture Organisation as part of a UN project to empower Emirati woman in the UAE’s food and agriculture sector.
As part of the Red Riding Hood Campaign, under the slogan, "Together for a Beating Heart", the General Women’s Union launched the National Programme to Prevent Heart Disease for Women, or Weqaya, under an initiative from the Zayed Giving Foundation, and with the supervision of the Emirates World Humanitarian Hospital and the Emirates World Heart Group.
The founding of the National Strategy for Women’s Advancement in the UAE, which was launched by H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, included an environmental component. The General Women’s Union launched the environmental initiative, "To Show Appreciation for Future Generations", which comes from the idea of the necessity of woman’s participation and their leading role in different fields.
The National Campaign for Preventing Cervical Cancer, under the slogan, "Re-Think", was also launched in co-operation with the Abu Dhabi Health Authority, Dubai Health Authority, Tamm Group for Social Volunteering and the Emirates Medical Association. This campaign included many awareness lectures.
The General Women’s Union also launched the National Programme to Fight Smoking by Children and Teenagers, with the goal of combatting this phenomenon, in co-operation with all government authorities at both federal and local levels.
Observed this year under the theme, "Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030", International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
The idea of this theme is to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal number 5, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, and number 4, to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. The theme will also focus on new commitments under UN Women’s "Step It Up" initiative, and other existing commitments on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights.
In his message on the day, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said, "Empowering women and girls is the only way to protect their rights and make sure they can realise their full potential. Women’s access to education and health services has benefits for their families and communities that extend to future generations. An extra year in school can add up to 25 per cent to a girl’s future income."
''When women participate fully in the labour force, it creates opportunities and generates growth. Closing the gender gap in employment could add US$12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. Increasing the proportion of women in public institutions makes them more representative, increases innovation, improves decision-making and benefits whole societies,'' he added.
Gender equality is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global plan agreed by leaders of all countries to meet the challenges we face. Sustainable Development Goal 5 calls specifically for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and this is central to the achievement of all 17 SDGs.
''On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment,'' the UN chief concluded.
UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, also issued a message on International Women's Day, in which she said, ''We want to construct a different world of work for women. As they grow up, girls must be exposed to a broad range of careers, and encouraged to make choices that lead beyond the traditional service and care options to jobs in industry, art, public service, modern agriculture and science.
''Women and girls must be ready to be part of the digital revolution. Currently only 18 percent of undergraduate Computer Science Degrees are held by women. We must see a significant shift in girls all over the world taking STEM subjects, if women are to compete successfully for high-paying ‘new collar’ jobs. Currently, just 25 percent of the digital industries’ workforce are women,'' she concluded.