Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment in the UAE

H.E. Hazza Alqahtani today conducted an Interactive Discussion with Women Entrepreneurs from the Rwanda Muslim Community led by the Mufti Sheikh Salim Hitimana. Read his presentation below:


 Sheikh Salim Hitimana, I want to sincerely thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to women leaders from the Rwanda Muslim Community about gender equality & women’s

empowerment in the United Arab Emirates.

 Ladies from the Rwanda Muslim Community, it’s an honor to have you here with us. I want to once again welcome you here at the UAE Embassy and to thank you for taking the time to come

and participate in these interesting discussions.

 With most of you being entrepreneurs, I’m sure you know about the United Arab Emirates, with its capital Abu Dhabi & Dubai the economic capital.

 The UAE has a population of approximately 10million, with 90% being foreigners who come to live, study & work in the UAE.

 The founding father of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed once said, and I quote: “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.” End of quote.

Allow me to share key facts regarding women’s empowerment in the UAE:

 Today, by law the UAE Constitution guarantees equal rights to all of its citizens, including women who have the same legal status, to name but a few, the claim to titles, access to education, the right to practice professions, and the right to own as much properties as men do. Women can also own businesses.

 The World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Report states that the UAE is one of the region’s best performing countries having closed the overall gender gap by 66%. The

report assesses women’s economic opportunity, education, health and political empowerment.

 The World Bank’s 2020 Women, Business and the Law Report states that the UAE is one of the world’s top ten economies exhibiting the most progress toward gender equality.

 The UAE ranked 35 out of 189 countries in women’s empowerment according to the 2019 Human Development Report commissioned by the UNDP.

 In 2015, the UAE Gender Balance Council, a federal entity, was established to enhance gender balance in the public sector for women in the UAE and aims to help place the UAE among the

top 25 countries for gender equality by 2021.

 In 2017 the UAE Gender Balance Council in coordination with the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) introduced the Gender Balance Guide, a tool for both the

public and private sectors with the aim to decrease gender inequality.

 On October 8th 2019, the Arab Charter of Women’s Rights was launched in Abu Dhabi to serve as a guideline for all Arab League member states with an aim to inform legislation and ensure Arab women’s rights. The Arab Charter of Women’s Rights comprises 25 articles that tackle issues from mandatory education and health care to work opportunities and free services for new mothers. The charter states that Arab women should have the right to marry foreigners and pass their citizenship on to their children.

In Government:

 Emirati women in the UAE hold two-thirds of public sector jobs, with 30% in leadership roles and 15% in technical and academic roles.

 25% of cabinet-level minster roles in the UAE are held by women. They include: – The Minister of State for International Cooperation; – The Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development; – The Minister of Community Development; – The Minister of State for Public Education Affairs; – The Minister of State; – Minister of State for Government Development & the Future; – Minister of State for Food Security; – Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and – The Minister of State for Youth Affairs, is the world’s youngest minister, appointed in 2016 at the age of 22.

 Women also make up 20% of the UAE’s diplomatic corps.

 In October 2008, the first female judge was sworn-in in the UAE. There are currently 4 female judges, 2 public prosecutors and 17 assistant public prosecutors. In March 2019, two female

judges were appointed to the Federal Judiciary for the first time.

 Seven women hold seats on the Federal National Council (FNC), a consultative parliamentary body, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the FNC’s membership.

 In 2018 the Law on Equal Wages and Salaries for Men and Women was approved by the UAE Cabinet in support of gender equality as well as granting the working mothers a paid maternity leave and reduced working hours for new mothers.

In Business:

 In 2017 the UAE had the highest number of women on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Arab Businesswomen with 19 Emirati women on the list.

 In 2012 the UAE became the first country in the region to enact legislation requiring the inclusion of female board members in every government agency and corporation.

 Today 15% of board level positions nationwide are occupied by Emirati women.

 The UAE’s aviation industry employs more female pilots, captains, and aircraft engineers than any other country in the Middle East & Northern Africa region.

 Etihad Airways marked International Women’s Day 2019 with an all-female flight for the first time in UAE history. Women Captains piloted the Airbus A380 along with a 19-member all-female cabin crew from 13 nationalities & they were in charge of 398 guests.

 Numerous programs that aim to promote economic and social development of female entrepreneurs and provide financial literacy to young women have been launched in the private

sector in the UAE.

 For example, in 2019 Standard Chartered UAE launched the Goal Initiative to provide financial literacy, life skills and employability training to young women. Standard Chartered

UAE also launched the Women in Tech Accelerator program aimed at promoting the economic and social development of female entrepreneurs.

 Emirati women business-owners account for 10% of the total private sector with 23,000 individuals running projects worth over AED50 billion.

In International Development:

 The empowerment and protection of women is one of the key pillars of the UAE’s foreign aid strategy.

 In 2004, the UAE became a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The UAE is also a signatory of the following

treaties for the protection of women and girls; Child Protection Convention, the Hours of Work (Industry) Convention, the Equal Remuneration Convention, the Convention concerning

Night Work of Women Employed in Industry and the Convention on Minimum Age.

 The UAE has developed a “100 percent Women” Policy which aims to enhance the UAE’s commitment to the protection of women and girls’ as a part of all UAE funded humanitarian

programs and projects implemented in humanitarian crises.

 To date the UAE has dedicated US $322 million for humanitarian initiatives and interventions focused on women and girls.

 The UAE has donated over 26$ million to the core budget of UN-Women since its founding in 2010 to support its operations and efforts to promote gender equality and women’s mpowerment.

 In November 2017, the UAE pledged 50$ million to the World Bank’s Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative fund.

In Defense:

 In 2014 the region’s first military college for women, Khawla bint Al Azwar Military School, opened in the UAE.

 The UAE currently has four women fighter pilots and 30 women who work with the country’s special security forces.

 The first Emirati and Arab female fighter pilot, Major Mariam Al-Mansouri, made international headlines for leading UAE missions against ISIS.

 In 2019 a military and peacekeeping training initiative, operated by the UN, in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Defense and the General Women’s Union in the UAE, trained

over 130 women from multiple Arab countries.

 These cadets have been trained to protect women’s rights, help reduce sexual violence and provide support to women in conflict zones globally.

 This program provides world-class training, physical fitness sessions and leadership development providing the same opportunity and responsibility to female cadets as is available

to their male counterparts.

In Education:

 77% of Emirati women enroll in higher education after finishing their secondary school.

 Women make up to 70% of all UAE national university graduates.

 46% of all UAE university graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are women.

 The literacy rate for women in 1975 in the UAE was 31% but today the literacy rate of women in the UAE is at 96%.

 Emirati women make up 60% of the country’s total UAE national university graduates and 43% of the UAE national workforce.

As I conclude, I want to highlight that we recognize the great initiatives put in place by the Government of Rwanda in empowering women & fostering gender equality in all sectors. The results have been outstanding.

Therefore, in the different programs initiated by the UAE Government here in Rwanda, women empowerment is always taken into consideration. To name but a few, in 2019 the Embassy held a successful training in partnership with the RDB & the Ministry of Education, to Empower 100 Women Future Leaders in Hospitality & Tourism Excellence. The training was conducted by highly qualified trainers from the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management & was attended by young women working in Rwanda’s tourism & hospitality sector.

Once again, thank you so much for your time and I hope we have an interesting discussion. (End)