FEATURED: Emirati Women and Diplomatic Action

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) joins the world to celebrate International Women's Day, marked annually on the 8th of March in recognition of the role of women and their active contribution to the process of political, cultural, social and economic development.

This day has become a global happening that tackles and highlights the achievements of women and future ambitions for further progress in the field of women empowerment, as women are vital contributors and partners 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 the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the UAE. This approach drawn from the natural role of the daughters of the UAE perpetuates in the current leadership’s vision for the future, whereby women stand as active partners and contributors in the country’s development process and play a vital role in raising future generations.

HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, spearheads the journey to women empowerment, leading women to hold some of the highest positions in all fields, complementing the country’s strategic plan that targeted women in the early stages of statehood and focused at the time on education and empowerment. Emirati women now hold ministerial portfolios, in addition to presidency and 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 judiciary.

UAE women celebrate this day and have accomplished great achievements in the past few years, responding effectively to the demands and changes of life 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 and other 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 imposing the appointment of women on the boards of directors of all institutions and government agencies, setting the proportion of female representation at 15% in government institutions. Women now make up 15% of the workforce in the public sector and 22.5% of the member of the Federal National Council are women. The current cabinet includes nine women ministers, representing 27 % of cabinet members.

President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has recently called for Emirati women to occupy 50 per cent of the country's Federal National Council after next year's elections. This decision reinforces the country’s plans towards a full empowerment of Emirati women across vital sectors.

This decision aims to further empower Emirati women and bolster their contributions to development, an accomplishment achieved in record time compared to other countries in the world. .

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has made 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 Brazil, 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 Consul General in Hong Kong-China. This reaffirms the vision of the wise Emirati leadership to support and empower Emirati women as an integral player in the Emirati society, as they work together with men to contribute to the advancement of the development process.

Women have set themselves as partners with distinction in the diplomatic field, developing an expansive network for the UAE’s international relations and enhancing partnerships.

There are currently 175 Emirati women serving in the diplomatic and consular corps at the ministry's headquarters, in addition to the 42 women in the diplomatic corps serving in UAE’s missions abroad.

Empowering Women Worldwide

The Government of the United Arab Emirates has made 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 focal points of the strategy 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 USD50 million to the World Bank's Women Entrepreneurs Financing Initiative (WeFi). This initiative will help mobilize more than USD1 billion in funding for women entrepreneurs. The UAE is also committed to making the necessary tools available to women and to supporting them through opportunities.

The "1000 Leaders" initiative is one example reflecting such action, whereby the state will provide training and opportunities for present and future generations of women, to empower them and enable them to hone their skills and abilities to become leaders in the sectors of activity of their choice, in an effort to reverse social prejudices about the division of gender roles and capacities, and relegate them 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 supported the saffron industry where women hold 80 percent of the production business. In Sri Lanka, the UAE also provided financial support to an institute dedicated to women’s empowerment.

The author is the United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Rwanda