The following article was contributed by the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Seoul for publication on the occasion of the International Women’s Day on March 8 every year.—Ed.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) joins the world today to celebrate International Women's Day, marked annually on the 8th of March in recognition of the role of women and their active contributions to political, cultural, social, and economic development.
This day has become a global day of importance that highlights the achievements of women and their ambitions for further progress in the field of women’s empowerment, as women are vital contributors across the country’s various sectors.
The UAE has adopted a powerful stance in empowering women, setting new standards based on a unique model drawn from the vision of His Highness the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the UAE. This approach draws from the natural role of the daughters of the UAE in the current leadership’s vision for the future, whereby women stand as active partners in the country’s development process and play a vital role in raising future generations.
His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, continues to spearhead women’s empowerment by encouraging women to hold some of the highest positions in all fields, complementing the country’s strategic plan that targeted women during the country’s early years of statehood and focused at the time on education and empowerment. Emirati women now hold ministerial portfolios, in addition to membership in the Federal National Council, and represent their country as ambassadors in countries around the world, in addition to their notable role in the UAE judiciary.
On this day, Emirati women celebrate major achievements of the past few years. They have responded effectively to life’s everyday demands thanks to the support and encouragement of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union (GWU), President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation (FDF) in the UAE.
The UAE Constitution guarantees equal rights for women and men. The country is leading the way in a number of regional and global indexes on gender equality and women's achievements, education and literacy, women's employment, and respect for women among several social and economic indicators.
The country supports the participation of Emirati women in decision-making as a core component of their economic empowerment. In 2012, the UAE Cabinet adopted a decision requiring the appointment of women on the boards of directors of all institutions and government agencies, setting the proportion of female representation at 15 percent in government institutions. Women now make up 15 percent of the workforce in the public sector and fifty percent of the members of the Federal National Council are women.
The decision by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to mandate that Emirati women occupy 50 percent of the country's Federal National Council reinforced the country’s plans towards the full empowerment of Emirati women across vital sectors.
This decision aimed to further empower Emirati women and bolster their contributions to development, an accomplishment achieved nationwide in record time compared to other countries around the world.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has taken distinctive steps and appointed eight Emirati women as ambassadors and diplomats to represent the country in international forums: HE Hessa Abdullah Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to the Netherlands; HE Hanan Khalfan Alili, UAE Ambassador to Latvia; HE Fatima Khamis Al Mazrouei, UAE Ambassador to Denmark; HE Hafsa Abdullah Al Olama, UAE Ambassador to Germany; HE Noura Mohamed Abdel Hamid Jumaa, UAE Ambassador to Finland; HE Dr. Nawal Khalifa Al Hosani, UAE’s Permanent Delegate the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA); and HE Lana Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the United Nations in New York, in addition to HE Nabila Abdulaziz Al Shamsi, UAE Ambassador to Montenegro. This reaffirms the vision of the wise Emirati leadership to support and empower Emirati women as integral players in Emirati society as they work together with men to contribute to the country’s advancement.
Women have established themselves as partners with distinction in the diplomatic field, developing an expansive network for the UAE’s international relations and enhancing partnerships.
Currently, women make up nearly half of the employees at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
Empowering women worldwide:
The UAE Government has designated the theme "Empowerment of Women and Girls" as one of three thematic areas of action underpinning the country's international aid policy for 2017-2021. It is also one of the strategic focal points of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
The UAE is fully committed to empowering women and girls in entrepreneurship and has thus donated USD 50 million to the World Bank's Women Entrepreneurs Financing Initiative (We-Fi). This initiative will help mobilize more than USD 1 billion in funding for women entrepreneurs. The UAE is also committed to making the necessary tools available to women and to supporting them through the provision of key opportunities.
The "1000 Leaders" initiative is one example reflecting such action, whereby the UAE provides training and opportunities to women to empower them and enable them to hone their skills to become leaders in the sectors of their choice in an effort to reverse social prejudices regarding gender roles and relegate such stereotypes to the past.
Among the international aid projects that contribute to this essential cause are women's vocational training and support for women entrepreneurs in low and middle-income countries and support for more than 100 projects in the health sector for women and children. In Afghanistan, the UAE has supported the saffron industry, where women hold 80 percent of production jobs. In Sri Lanka, the UAE also provided financial support to an institute dedicated to women’s empowerment.