The Jakarta Post
Women in the United Arab Emirates joined the international community on Sunday in celebrating International Women’s Day. The Middle Eastern country represents a beacon of hope for the advancement of women's empowerment in a region, which has been predominantly patriarchal, according to the UAE government.
The annual celebration is commemorated every March 8 to acknowledge women’s role and contributions to political, cultural, social and economic development.
In a statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Sunday, the Emirati government through its missions in Jakarta said the country had taken a strong position in women's empowerment.
“Women have been the key partner of the development in the country and have been playing a vital role in elevating [the capabilities] of UAE’s future generation,” the statement read.
UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has taken a clear position to empower women in the country by encouraging them to assume some of the highest positions in various sectors.
“Some of the ministerial posts within the Emirati government is being assumed by women. Some are also holding their positions as officials of the Federal National Council,” the UAE government said, adding that women had also maintained a decisive role in the country’s justice system.
In 2012, the UAE became the first country in the Arab region to allow women to participate as councillors.
The country’s constitution guarantees equal rights between men and women, which helped the emirates leader in various gender equality indices, supplementing its advances in education and literacy.
The UAE acknowledges that women’s participation in decision-making was a key factor in the country’s economic development. In 2012, for instance, the UAE government decided to give more leverage to women in leadership, allowing them to sit in the highest position in every institution.
Ever since, around 15 percent of the available seats in government institutions must be allocated to women and 50 percent for the Federal National Council, aligning with Al-Nahyan’s vision to further involve women in developing the country’s vital sectors.
“At least nine out of the 32 ministers in the current government are women. In the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry, for instance, almost half of the employees are women,” the statement said.
The Gulf state bears the world's highest percentage of women in the public sector at 66 percent, of which 30 percent are in positions of leadership or related to decision-making.
At least 75 percent of the positions in the education and healthcare sectors are filled by women. Two-thirds of the country’s university graduates are women, of which 77 percent studied computer sciences and another 44 percent specializing in engineering – more than twice as many than in Western Europe or the United States.
In 2014, the UAE also opened the Khawla bint Al Azwar Military School as the first military academy for women in the region.
Currently, at least 23,000 women entrepreneurs in the UAE are running projects worth US$13.6 billion. Around 19 percent of the members of the country’s chamber of industry and commerce are women.
As such, the UAE has committed to empowering women globally to take on greater roles in entrepreneurship and has contributed at least $50 million to the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), a collaborative partnership among 14 governments, eight multilateral development banks (MDBs) and other public and private sector stakeholders hosted by the World Bank Group.