Six years ago, Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi officially declared August 28, 2015 as Emirati Women’s Day. This newfound holiday falls on the anniversary of the United Arab Emirates’ General Women’s Union (GWU) back in 1975, making it all the more special for women across the nation.
Also known as the ‘mother of the nation,’ Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Al Nahyan is the UAE’s original advocate for women’s rights and empowerment. Today, she holds several related positions including Founder and Chairwoman of the GWU, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation.
Each year, she ties Emirati Women’s Day to a different theme related to women’s rights, empowerment and equality. In honor of the UAE’s 50th anniversary, she declared this year’s theme as ‘Women: Ambitions & Inspiration for the Next 50 Years.’
Over the past five decades, Emirati women have accomplished more than ever before in fields such as government, science, technology, conservation, business and beyond. In honor of all they have achieved, this year is dedicated to honoring those countless women who have stepped up to lead the UAE to a better and more prosperous future.
Leading up to the holiday, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, officially named a main street in Abu Dhabi after Sheikha Fatima.
All the way from the United States, the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC held an honorary virtual discussion titled “Women behind Expo 2020 Dubai.” The event hosted female leaders from the UAE and the US to discuss the critical role of women in the upcoming world fair, as well as how past expos have brought women from all different walks of life together for the greater good.
10 Inspirational Women from the UAE
In honor of this tradition, we are taking a moment to spotlight just a few of the countless inspirational female leaders in the Emirates today:
- Sarah Al-Amiri: The Science Lead and Deputy Project Manager at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, Chairperson of the Emirates Scientists Council and the Minister of Advanced Technology.
- Nora Al Matrooshi: The first female Emirati and Arab astronaut.
- Zahra Lari: The first internationally competitive Emirati figure-skater.
- Sheikha Mozah Al Maktoum: The first Dubai royal female pilot, the first Emirati female commercial pilot and woman to be appointed First Lieutenant Pilot of the Dubai Police Air Wing.
- Nayla Al Khaja: The first female Emirati Film Director and Producer.
- Nouf Al Afeefi: The first female Emirati Air Traffic Controller.
- Thuraya Al Zaabi: The first female Emirati Paralympian.
- Toffaha Salem Kahmis Al Hamid: the first Emirati Police Woman.
Leading Women’s Rights in the Middle East
From the very beginning, the concept of gender equality was woven in the UAE’s constitution to ensure that both men and women have equal opportunity to reach their full potential, no matter the circumstances.
Today, the UAE now ranks the number one country for gender equality across the MENA region. In fact, women now make up 50% of the UAE’s workforce and the government has welcomed 9 women to the UAE cabinet. In addition, 23 Emirati women made Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Arab Businesswomen, the most of any nationality in 2020.
Building on this progress, the UAE recently stepped forward to protect and accommodate both mothers and pregnant women during the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). During this time, the country also supported ReacHer, Al Manal’s Humanitarian Initiative focused on delivering mental health services to women suffering from anxiety, stress or a personal crisis.
These are just a few examples of the many ways the UAE has become a regional model for women’s rights in the Middle East. As the country continues to close the gender gap, the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC will continue to work alongside the US to drive new opportunities for women and girls to grow and change the status quo.