Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation; the “Mother of the Nation” pens a moving tribute for the 50th National Day of the United Arab Emirates, exclusively for Vogue Arabia.
The celebration of the UAE’s 50th National Day at a time of significant achievements, advancements, and initiatives positions the nation among the world’s most civilized and developed countries. We are proud that the UAE is built on love, peace, humanity, coexistence, and tolerance.
These qualities have shaped our society and have been the basis of our union since the rule of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and his brothers, our wise leaders, who have laid the foundation for our society with the prevalence of unity, will, hope, optimism, development, and investment in opportunity.
On this occasion, we highlight the progress of the United Arab Emirates under the vision of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and his brother, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and their brothers, their Highnesses, members of the Supreme Council of the Union, rulers of the Emirates, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Tangible success was made possible by investing in the UAE’s citizens and building their capacities and capabilities to realize our shared ambitions in the pursuit of a progressive nation and compassionate humanity.
As we draw on the UAE’s achievements in supporting and empowering women, we remember the historic moment, 50 years ago, on the rise of the morning sun on December 2, 1971, and the declaration of the Union. Our citizens woke to our late founding father’s voice as he said, “The state gives priority to building mankind and caring for its citizens in every way, that is the real wealth of this land, and it is the most valuable asset in this country.”
We constantly draw inspiration from this as we work to eliminate discrimination between genders, which is the main building block of the legislative, economic, social, and cultural environment that supports the achievements and creativity of Emirati women.
Those who witness this day realize the miraculous progress and achievements of Emirati women today across all sectors, since the establishment of the Union by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. His leadership unleashed Emirati women’s unlocked potential, strengthened support for them, and offered opportunities to actively contribute to the development and advancement of the nation.
It began with the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Women’s Development Association in 1973, which played a prominent role in combatting female illiteracy and providing access to education for women at any stage of life. Setting up the association was a challenge, yet it was an outstanding success, and provided pioneering experiences for women who completed their education, joined universities, and graduated to play critical roles and serve the nation.
Eventually, the efforts of the Abu Dhabi Women’s Development Association were unified under the General Women’s Union in 1975 to support women’s empowerment across all sectors.
Since then, the General Women’s Union has led the advancement of Emirati women through several stages. The first was women’s advancement, which focused on shifting society’s viewpoints towards acceptance of women’s pursual of education and engagement in social work, by encouraging affiliation with women’s associations in all emirates and coordination among them to ensure services and programs reach the largest population of women. This was followed by strengthening women’s empowerment and leadership by providing a legislative and institutional environment to elevate women’s positions and emphasize their pivotal role in society. The General Women’s Union presented its various initiatives and programs on basic foundations and components to achieve alignment and balance between the UAE’s government vision and global practices by fulfilling international requirements and integrating them into the Emirati society.
These efforts contributed to envisioning the future of Emirati women. Thus, the daughters of our nation, with the support of our wise leadership, were able to reach new scientific and academic heights. They have achieved outstanding success in technological development, space research at the UAE Space Agency, renewable and nuclear energy fields, the manufacturing and launch of satellites, developing technology for the aerospace industry and military sector, and in fields of creativity and innovation. Through this, the General Women’s Union developed an innovative approach, a study titled “Emirati Women’s Progress Monitoring System,” to anticipate the future of Emirati women by measuring indicators of international competitiveness, accelerating policy preparation and studies, and launching projects and initiatives through the collaboration of federal and local authorities, civil society institutions, and private sector organizations focused on women to identify women’s strength and capabilities to build on them and address vulnerabilities. The initiative was carried out by the General Women’s Union and its strategic partners to reflect the outcomes and outputs of the National Strategy for Empowerment of Emirati Women 2015- 2021, which highlighted a fundamental transformation on the path of progress for Emirati women.
Half a century is only but a point through time and is not much for mankind, but it is significant for a nation, the United Arab Emirates, and its citizens. It symbolizes urbanization, comfort in living, acceptance, tolerance, and civilization. In a broader scope, it is the time linking the past to the present and to the future. The United Arab Emirates has strengthened its global position on gender equality through several achievements, some of which are the National Strategy for Empowerment of Emirati Women 2015-2021, the adoption of the formation of the Gender Balance Council, the launch of the Gender Balance Index in government agencies, issuing laws for equal pay and Gender Balance Guide for public and private sector companies, providing access to financial assistance and social welfare for widows, divorcees, abandoned women, and female citizens married to men of foreign nationalities, and access to free education in public schools, colleges, and universities. Along with ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training and the political empowerment of Emirati women who now represent 50% of the members in the Federal National Council, the highest rate of women’s parliamentarian participation in the world. Furthermore, Emirati women constitute a third of the UAE’s current cabinet members and are leaders in the management of advanced science, youth affairs, community development, culture, public education, international cooperation affairs, and food and water security.
Emirati women have proven day after day that nothing is impossible with hard work, diligence, creativity, and hope for a prosperous future. With the completion of the modern state-building system, we will preserve the nation’s gains, capabilities, and achievements facilitated by God’s grace, and the efforts of our wise leadership, patriotism, and our responsibility towards it, has motivated us to continue the pursuit of our nation’s advancement over the next 50 years.
Originally published in the December 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia