By the EW Team

Today, August 28, 2020, marks the fifth annual Emirati Women’s Day where we celebrate all of the incredible Emirati females across the nation.

This year the theme of the day celebrating UAE women is “Preparing for the next 50 years: women are the support of the nation”, as announced by the Mother of the Nation, Sheikha Fatima, back in May.

This mantra is in line with the nationwide goals of the UAE, after it was announced at the end of 2019 that 2020 would be a year that marks a year of preparation. This is to ready the nation for the UAE’s Golden Jubilee next year.

 

To mark this incredible day, Emirates Woman spoke to 11 influential women about their pride to be Emirati, how they believe things have changed for women through the years and how they have been supported by other women.

HE Dr Sara Al Madani, Emirati entrepreneur 

 

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What makes you proud to be an Emirati woman?

I’m proud to be a part of a country that supports and believes in women and will do whatever it takes to put women on top and to see women sitting on board seats, as CEOs, as ministers. I love it. I love this movement the UAE is championing and I am proud to be an Emirati woman because we are an example for the world.

This year the theme of Emirati Women’s Day is ‘Preparing for the next 50 years: women are the support of the nation’. What does this mean to you?

What it means to me is that this country has a vision and with my country’s vision I’m not scared. I don’t look at my gender as a weakness, but as a strength.

How have the emirates changed over the years and which opportunities are you particularly grateful for?

We have seen the changes not only on land, not only in our infrastructure, but we have also seen it in the mentality and the belief system and the core ethics and vision the nation has. Women are heading to the top.

How do you think women can best support each other and have you felt this support yourself?

As much as the ecosystem is available in the UAE, as much as the vision is there for women to grow and come out on top. I only urge other women to do is support each other internally because when we work with each other, we become a powerhouse. We don’t compete with each other – we complete each other.

Yasmin Al Mulla, Co-founder and Creative Director of fashion brand YNM 

Yasmin Al Mulla

What makes you proud to be an Emirati woman?

We are so blessed and fortunate to live in this beautiful country; where women take their chances in all aspects, where women voices are being heard, and where women being treated as gems. Growing up in the UAE is a privilege, beautiful, and inspiring thing, as the rapid developments urge us to work hard to keep up and develop ourselves, and goals too.

This year the theme of Emirati Women’s Day is ‘Preparing for the next 50 years: women are the support of the nation’. What does this mean to you?

“We do not only empower women, but we empower the whole community through women” – His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

This quote describes the support women are receiving just by being women in this country. It is indeed very overwhelming by all means, yet we are thankful for being celebrated every single day by just living in the UAE — every day is nothing but a celebration to us.

How have the emirates changed over the years and which opportunities are you particularly grateful for?

Yes, in a very positive way, being in the UAE brings nothing but magnificent opportunities on a daily basis.

How do you think women can best support each other and have you felt this support yourself?

We are living in a country where women are being supported in all fields, we should use our chances, but to always remember that there is a room for everyone— we rise by lifting up others! And fortunately, I have felt this support, which I am nothing but thankful for.

Her Excellency Dr Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, former founding Director-General of Smart Dubai

Dr.Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr

What makes you proud to be an Emirati woman?

Countless elements make me proud to be an Emirati, first of all being called after the late Sheikh Zayed the founder of UAE as ‘daughters of Zayed’, who established women role in the DNA of our nation and entrusted Her Highness ‘Mother of the Nation’ and Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak on leading this and it continued with our leadership today.

Our leadership believed in women and empowered us by establishing a nurturing environment, that’s why you see us across the board in both government and private sector leading and contributing to critical missions in all disciplines of life all the way to space and the mission to Mars.

This year the theme of Emirati Women’s Day is ‘Preparing for the next 50 years: women are the support of the nation’. What does this mean to you?

First of all, I’d like to congratulate Her Highness ‘Mother of the Nation’ and Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak on the occasion.

“Preparing for the next 50 years: women are the support of the nation”. This year 2020 theme holds a deeper meaning than what the words say, for me the theme highlights two things: First: Celebrates 50 years of Emirati women success that made UAE what it is today. This wasn’t possible without our leadership vision. The late Sheikh Zayed the founder of UAE established women role in the DNA of our and entrusted HH the mother of the nation on leading this & it continued with our leadership today.

Second: It’s a renewal of HH trust in us Emirati women to be (as we have always) the support for achieving UAE dreams for the next 50 years and beyond. And in this interview, I’d like to speak on behalf of all my peers that we accept the challenge.

How have the emirates changed over the years and which opportunities are you particularly grateful for?

This is a question that needs volumes of books to be able to count how the UAE women empowerment evolved! But I’ll share with you a few figures that embody where we are heading. The Hope Probe project involved nearly 200 Emirati engineers and researchers, who worked hard for six years to fulfil the UAE’s dream to reach the Red Planet. Also, the UAE has been ranked number 1 globally when it comes to female representation in parliament. Fifty per cent of the UAE’s 40-member Federal National Council are women. Nearly 244 employees work for the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, FANR, with 67 per cent being Emiratis, of which 45 per cent are in leading and managerial positions. Women also account for over 40 per cent of the authority’s employees.

How do you think women can best support each other and have you felt this support yourself?

Women can best support women by hailing their efforts and be in the frontline of people cheering their peers. This what makes a woman deserve to be called a woman. While many women support their peers, some ladies are hesitant to do so & I believe this impacts the progress of women and their contribution to the nation. Some women might not have the option to support, but I believe that the minimum should come from women leaders. They should believe that Leadership is not about superiority but about building partnerships with your team and community.

I’ll give you an example from my previous post, the majority of my team in the past mission as a Director-General of Smart Dubai was women! I didn’t design to be that way but it was a result of great Emirati ladies who are very qualified, talented and most importantly eager to serve the nation. I was lucky to be raised as the daughter of Butti bin Bishr the advisor of the late Sheikh Zayed, which gave me a glimpse of what Sheikh Zayed think of Emirati women and how he treated them. This torched a spark inside me that no one can put off & when I see Emirati women shine I feel proud & it gives energy and passion to do more. Where ever you look around you will see shining Emirati ladies leading key initiatives in the emirate and across the nation.

Even though, our leadership taught us that ambition and success shouldn’t have limits so: Women chose what kind of contribution they can do in Dubai futuristic plans and they should do.

Amna Al Qubaisi, the first Emirati female racing driver

Amna Al Qubaisi

What makes you proud to be an Emirati woman?

What makes me proud to be an Emirati woman is the opportunity to be empowered in every aspect not just in sports.

This year the theme of Emirati Women’s Day is ‘Preparing for the next 50 years: women are the support of the nation’. What does this mean to you?

What it means to me that women in 50 years will claim positions like never before and being a successful independent woman will be a social norm in society.

How have the emirates changed over the years and which opportunities are you particularly grateful for?

It has been changed drastically as women are more empowered now than ever. I’m grateful for my country supporting me as an Arab female competing in a male-dominated sport.

How do you think women can best support each other and have you felt this support yourself?

I think women praising each other and lifting each other is the best way of support. I have been supported by many women and I feel absolutely heartwarming towards them.

Her Excellency Dr Maryam Mohamed Fatma Matar, Founder & Chairperson UAE Genetic Diseases Association

BW 2020 Official Photo of H E Dr Maryam-High resolution

What makes you proud to be an Emirati woman?

I feel proud that I am born in a nation where women are respected, valued and are an integral part of society.

Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the emirates said, “The woman is half of the society, any country which pursues development should not leave her in poverty or illiteracy. I am on the woman’s side.”

It is a privilege to be an Emirati woman. I say this with utmost pride and gratitude to the founding fathers of UAE and 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.

Our leaders have shown us a vision, and given us tools and means to realize our individual mission and contribute to the nation’s progress. Today our country is considered among top nations in equality, governance, humanitarian efforts, quality of life and healthcare. These achievements are results of the dedication and efforts of our leaders, who inspire the people to do their best as well.

My pride and belief in the UAE values and potential is further reinforced in the recent crisis of COVID-19. The UAE truly has stepped up to the mark with humanitarian aid, in addition to protecting its own citizens and residents with robust and proactive measures.

Since the start of the pandemic, the UAE has continued to deliver humanitarian aid all over the world including medical supplies that support medical professionals in over 50 countries.

I also feel proud of my Emirati brothers and sisters who saw their privilege, and used it for the betterment of the community, and to make a positive difference to the national economy, strength and achievements.

This year the theme of Emirati Women’s Day is ‘Preparing for the next 50 years: women are the support of the nation’. What does this mean to you?

Women all over the world have risen up to the challenge of leadership, crisis management and inclusive style of leading in the recent few months of COVID-19.

Even if both parents work full-time, women have the responsibility of managing homes, childcare, work and families and they are hailed as the CEO’s of homes.

Women are more likely than men to say their lives have been disrupted because of the coronavirus.

Plus, women are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic because they constitute the majority of healthcare workers globally. The women healthcare workers showed human leadership, consistently made efforts to minimize the impact the novel virus and made great personal sacrifices all over the world.

Today worldwide women have shown that we are ready to take bigger responsibilities, become part of decisions that will impact the future generations and bring human values to the forefront.

Emirati women are no different. Emirati women are leading, creating positive change, fulfilling their responsibilities at work and at home, while retaining the UAE values and traditions alive.

For me, the theme of this year is very appropriate and timely. UAE is a young nation but under the guidance of our leaders, UAE has made tremendous progress as a nation and also being among countries with a vision. Now the country is ready to accelerate its journey to become a global example and leader and playing an active role in humanitarian and sustainable development. Guided by the vision of our leaders, it is now up to all of us, the women, with equal support of men, to work together to build a better future for everyone.

How have the emirates changed over the years and which opportunities are you particularly grateful for?

His Highness the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, envisioned women to be an equal and active participant in nation-building.

Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation continues to create a substantial difference in the lives of all Emirati women. Our grandmothers and mothers, have paved the way for women like me to dream and achieve professional success by being an equal partner in the success of our nation.

Our leaders have supported equal partnership of women and implemented laws that make it possible.

UAE has enacted a range of legislation and laws that provide legal protection for women, and punish anyone who might compromise their dignity or personal safety. In this context, The UAE has signed all international treaties on protecting the rights of women. Among these are the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW, (2004), the Hours of Work (Industry) Convention (1982), and the Equal Remuneration Convention (1996).

His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has led national efforts aiming to create permanent and positive changes in women’ lives. He has pioneered education and training opportunities that would enhance the role and contribution of women in the public sphere and promote professional opportunities for Emirati women.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai has been at the forefront of encouraging women’s empowerment in the UAE.

During the Government Summit in Dubai in 2015, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed announced the formation of the “Emirates Council for Gender Balance” which aims to bridge the gender gap at a strategic level. These steps became a roadmap for women to perform as key partners in building the future of the nation.

By the grace of God, I was able to achieve my mission to include population screening for prevention of genetic disorders in UAE legislation. These legislations have enabled our community to bring the risks of most prevalent genetic disorders to an absolute minimum. My dream to set up a non-profit advocacy and research organisation was fulfilled by setting up UAE GDA in 2004 under mentorship and support of HH Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan Cabinet Member and Minister of State for Tolerance of UAE who believed in my vision even as a student of Dubai Medical College.

In 2008 I became the first Emirati Woman Director-General within the Government of Dubai.

As the Director-General of the Community Development Authority (CDA) I was entrusted with responsibilities of formulating and delivering social policies and services that are in line and contribute to the achievement of the social development objectives of Dubai’s Strategic Plan 2007 – 2015 as launched by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

During this period I led a multicultural talented executive team that set up social development strategies for Dubai Strategic Plan which has a long-lasting impact on the healthcare policies and community care.

As the first Emirati woman Undersecretary to the Minister of Health in 2006, I worked on designing blueprints for Primary and Public Health care sector and implementing it. For me, the significant achievement was launching a number of initiatives to deliver Primary Health Care Services in the Northern Emirates and increase the number of PHC centres from 52 to 79 in less than one year. Primary Health Care centres are a backbone of an efficient infrastructure for any country and serve as a pillar of public health.

How do you think women can best support each other and have you felt this support yourself?

As women, our role is to be grateful for the role of our mothers, make progress on the path they showed us. Our role is also to continue efforts to create opportunities for ourselves, our sisters and our future generations.

Women can and must support other women by being an advocate of equality, and strive to make this world a place where all women by default get their due recognition. Every day we need to step up by creating opportunities for education, health, development and participation of other women.

As women, we also have a responsibility and opportunity to create a better and equal world of tomorrow and to raise our daughters to believe they can do what they want and raise our sons to believe that all humans are equal.

I felt the support of women in my early life as my mother is my first role model who ensured that me and my siblings get quality education and imbibe human values. In my professional training, I met outstanding women teachers and mentors. From the initial days of my work, I received the unconditional support of women who dedicated their time and efforts for my mission, and gave me opportunities and platform to share my experience.

Aisha Baker, Jewellery Designer and Founder of Aisha Baker

Aisha Baker

What makes you proud to be an Emirati woman?

As an Emirati woman, I am proud of my heritage and of the country our ancestors built. In such a short time UAE has become a melting pot and we all live here in unity. The abundance of opportunities this country gave to its citizens as well as residences. I am very proud to be a part of it.

This year the theme of Emirati Women’s Day is ‘Preparing for the next 50 years: women are the support of the nation’. What does this mean to you?

Women are the support of the children, the support of the communities, economy and finally nation as well. Women are supporters but also in need of support. If this balance is right the nation shines and prosper. Emirati women have had an opportunity to be working on senior positions in various industries from technology to healthcare and science and government sectors. I am happy to see that UAE recognizes the importance of women inclusion and I believe we will be a witness of the rising number of women in all sectors in the next 50 years.

How have the emirates changed over the years and which opportunities are you particularly grateful for?

There is an obvious huge change in development in all kinds of aspects from education, healthcare, science, leisure etc. In addition, an amazing effort has been made in promoting equality, tolerance, right for happiness and I am grateful that these subjects are addressed.

How do you think women can best support each other and have you felt this support yourself?

Like most of the Emirati families, I come from a large family with lots of siblings and we have always supported each other. Support between women is something that has always been in our culture and I experienced this since a young age. We should encourage the young generation of women to keep the spirit of our culture alive and support each other firstly through access to higher education and then entrepreneurship.

Fatma Al Otaiba, Founder of ODEEM

 

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What makes you proud to be an Emirati woman?

I am very proud of being an Emirati woman, I was lucky to grow around women who taught me the value of our identity and the importance of preserving our culture while always looking forward and I think that’s how all women of my country form the backbone of our society. From our grandmothers to the women of today who are working tirelessly toward taking the nation to the next level.

This year the theme of Emirati Women’s Day is ‘Preparing for the next 50 years: women are the support of the nation’. What does this mean to you?

I think Emirati women also have a strong point of view to help carry the vision of the country forward, and they are showing their leadership and entrepreneurial spirit to contribute to the development of the country.

How have the emirates changed over the years and which opportunities are you particularly grateful for?

Today Emirati women are growing in a supportive environment that gives them opportunities allowing them to grow and support their own vision.

How do you think women can best support each other and have you felt this support yourself?

In general, I think we should celebrate the little victories of one another and be proud of each other’s achievements. We should support our local women-owned businesses and learn from each other.

Asma Al Janahi, Project Manager at Prime Minister’s Office, and board member of the UAE Triathlon Association

Asma Al Janahi

What makes you proud to be an Emirati woman?

The United Arab Emirates name is pride in itself for me as a citizen and for every resident also. I am proud to be an Emarati woman who learned that “Impossible Doesn’t Exist”. Our leaders are our role models as they taught us that accomplishment is similar to breathing. Exceptional achievements and giving is in our DNA.

This year the theme of Emirati Women’s Day is ‘Preparing for the next 50 years: women are the support of the nation’. What does this mean to you?

HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum says: “We Don’t wait for events, we make events.” Accordingly, this year’s theme provides us with a stronger motivation to achieve and exceed our limits in all of our life pillars e.g. family, career, voluntary work.

How have the emirates changed over the years and which opportunities are you particularly grateful for?

We have been blessed by our leadership from day one when the union was established by H.H.Skh. Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. And with such a leadership UAE was able to accomplish a great achievement and awe the world magnificent feat of advancement in various sectors.

I am grateful and blessed to be an Emirati woman who is supported by the leaders. Which make me responsible also to carry UAE name in dignity and respect and pushes me to excel in every aspect of my work.

I am grateful for 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, to advance the gender balance issues and empower Emirati women and raise their status internationally. Especially the decree states that each Sports Federation should have at least one Emirati Woman. And from there many Emirati leaders shine through their exceptional achievements in the sports leadership field.

How do you think women can best support each other and have you felt this support yourself?

We go through many difficulties which we overcome and become wiser. And with this wisdom, we can help each other. It is amazing how women get stronger after each challenge she overcomes.

Around us, we see many such inspiring women. I have been blessed by supportive friends and colleagues who supported me and guided my growth and were my source of inspiration.

Nayla al-Khaja, the first female film director-producer in the UAE

nayla al khaja

What makes you proud to be an Emirati woman?

It is that I have access to a country that empowers us, in the sense that we can fulfil whatever we dream of. Personally, it means that I can reach new heights in terms of pursuing my dreams.

This year the theme of Emirati Women’s Day is ‘Preparing for the next 50 years: women are the support of the nation’. What does this mean to you?

I believe that the theme refers to where we have been, where we are and where we are heading. For the last 50 years, Emirati women have played a pivotal role from the very beginning where she supported her family and worked in stores until she started getting an education and started teaching then slowly ventured in other vocations. Today Emirati women can be seen in every field space defence, forensic science, judge, and all the non-traditional fields. We have broken the glass ceiling and we’re only going to be soring higher from this point.

How have the emirates changed over the years and which opportunities are you particularly grateful for?

The emirates have changed in a tremendous way, it copes with new development and technologies and we are always ahead because of our leader who loves to see us ahead. Being ahead is the Moto, and it’s an ambitious culture that influences us women . I’m extremely grateful for the scholarship I’ve received from our government, and without that, I wouldn’t have been a film director today.

How do you think women can best support each other and have you felt this support yourself?

In my field, there’s a group called ‘Women in Film’ where women encourage each other, it helped women in this group to be known and promote each other.

Khadija Al Bastaki, Executive Director, Dubai Design District

Khadija Al Bastaki

What does being an Emirati women mean today?

The UAE is among the best countries in the region for gender equality and thus being an Emirati woman today means we have limitless opportunities to achieve remarkable things for our country. We have a deep respect for our leaders, especially women who have paved the way for us to secure important positions in the public and private sector. For me, being an Emirati woman today means showing a deep love for the nation as we continue to deliver on the vision of our leaders for a knowledge and innovation-based economy. I’m also proud that our community is home to 94 Emirati businesses, many of which are led by women.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

My greatest achievement so far is becoming Executive Director of d3. For me, it’s more than a title – creative design has always been a passion and to be leading this vibrant community that thrives and breathes creativity and innovation inspires me and my team every day. We continue to work hard to ensure we establish an ecosystem that remains a leader in its field by not only bringing together great talents and brands but enabling startups and empowering students through enabling platform in5 Design and the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation, the region’s only university dedicated to design and innovation. We will continue to work with our business partners and the wider community to build upon d3’s position as the beating heart of creativity in the region.

What would you say to the younger generation of Emirati women?

Young women today should be more determined than ever to pursue their dreams, their passion and their career goals. They should continue to explore and try different approaches but, most importantly, rather than relying on themselves, they also need to consider having a mentor or a life coach for inspiration and guidance. Listening, understanding, experiencing and analysing are key to better judgment.

Marwa Al Balooshi, Emirati illustrator

Artwork - Marwa Al Balooshi

What does being an Emirati women mean today? 

It is an extremely exciting time to be a woman in the UAE. I see more women around me making their mark in a variety of fields and truly breaking the glass ceiling. There is so much inspiration around that it pushes someone like me to do more, whether it be through my own frontline work or my art. My Emirati Women’s Day collaboration with Deliveroo is just one of the many ways out there for Emirati women to send out an important message in our society at a time where a sense of gratitude and community is so important. This particular illustration thanks the COVID-19 frontline heroes that truly kept the city afloat during an unprecedented time.  

The true beauty of women doing so much in the UAE right now is that the spirit of empowerment and the respect for tradition go along hand in hand which is what makes the experience truly unique. 

Which women in your life inspire you? 

I am lucky to be surrounded by inspirational women in my personal and work life but if I had to mention one person, it would have to be my mother. Without her guidance and support, I would not have had the courage to try new things, to really explore my potential and to continue working hard for a better future.

What would you say to the younger generation of Emirati women?

Always stop to look around yourself for inspiration. The only person you’re in competition with is yourself. Take the opportunity to live in a country as diverse as the UAE and do what you can to get your message your word out there whether it be through the magic of your words, the pride of your accomplishments or through the stroke of your brush. 

Happy Emirati Women’s Day to all the incredible females out there.

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