I have always felt it an honour and privilege to be part of a nation that is so committed to gender equality. The UAE is ranked as a leading country in gender equality in the region due to the fundamental belief that women and men are equal in society. As a mother living in the Emirate, I couldn’t think of a better place to raise my two daughters.
Unfortunately, not all women and girls worldwide can say the same. Some countries are significantly behind in their progress to help empower women and encourage gender equality. This is why annual events such as International Women’s Day are so important. Women have always been encouraged to aim high in this country, but how? What exactly does our nation do right, and what elements could be replicated to ensure gender equality elsewhere?
How the UAE embraces equality:
From the start of life, our nation prioritises access to education for girls and boys. Thanks to this, young women in the UAE actually tend to outperform their male counterparts when it comes to education. For example, more women than men complete secondary education in the Emirates. On top of this, 77% of Emirati women enrol in further education and makeup 70% of our university graduates. This is amazing to see and reflects how far women have come. For instance, in 1975, literacy rates for women in the UAE were 31%. This figure is 95.8% today, exemplifying how well our nation and its women have advanced. It also demonstrates that women can achieve anything when given the opportunity. It would be wonderful if this was recognised on a global scale.
A significant number of women-owned businesses can be found in the UAE. This is likely down to the number of initiatives in our nation to support, empower and encourage women to reach their aspirations. These include She Wins Arabia, a collaboration between the International Financial Corporation from the World Bank and Abu Dhabi Global Market. This initiative works directly with women-led start-ups and businesses to help fine-tune their pitches and business plans in order to attract investors. Another is the She’s Next initiative, which supports local female entrepreneurs. This programme provides small and medium businesses with tools and practical insights such as networking, mentoring, and funding opportunities. Thanks to initiatives such as these, in 2021, 25,000 Emirati women entrepreneurs owned 50,000 businesses valued at AED 60 billion. Speaking from personal experience, as the founder of women-led start-up Prypto, I’ve found that the UAE is the perfect environment for success, and the growing number of initiatives provided to women in business can only further that.
Although the UAE is blessed with a population of people who believe that men and women are equal partners, gender equality is also enshrined within the Constitution of the UAE, which guarantees equal rights for both men and women. This includes providing women access to education, social and healthcare benefits, the right to hold government offices, practice any profession of their choice and inherit property. This means that, far from a temporary focus, equality will remain an indefinite tenet of our national story.
What does the future look like for equality in the UAE?
For many years, the UAE has been at the forefront of gender equality in the MENA region, and this looks set to continue. Through its many initiatives, forward-thinking leaders and equal opportunities, I feel satisfied knowing I will raise my two daughters in a place so committed to upholding women’s rights.
Despite this, I can’t help but feel saddened that there are several countries that still have a long way to go on their journey to gender equality. This International Women’s Day, take a moment to consider the women in your life and all that they have achieved. Then ask yourself: would they be able to fulfil their true potential if they had been born in a less progressive country?
I hope to see positive change globally in the future, but until then, we must collectively ensure that women are empowered and supported at every possible opportunity.