SHARJAH – MENA Herald: Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA) called for the establishment of a UAE Ministry for Women, as Her Highness addressed a special closed session organised exclusively for women on the first day of the second edition of ‘Investing in the Future’ (IIFMENA) conference.

This closed session titled ‘Future of Women in the UAE’ constituted an important component of the first day’s proceedings, and was organised by NAMA and the UAE General Women’s Union.

Sheikha Jawaher’s appeal was set in the context of adding to the UAE’s illustrious history and significant achievements in enabling women’s empowerment. Referring to women as pillars of advancement in all societies, she emphasised that the wisdom and vision of emancipating and empowering women was reflected in the UAE’s earliest leadership starting from His Highness the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Nahyan, Founder of the UAE.

“All of us today are here in the UAE, a country that has set numerous milestones by introducing numerous new ministries to cope with the growing demands of progress. As women are crucial drivers of progress, I believe the time is right to be at the forefront of women’s ambitions by introducing a ministry for women’s affairs,” said Her Highness during her keynote address.
“A ministry for women’s affairs will help ensure the sustainability of the empowerment of women. It will advance their roles and invest their capabilities in serving their society and nation, helping them to face any changes that might arise in the future,” Sheikha Jawaher added.

Her Highness’ address was followed by a panel discussion featuring speakers, Her Excellency Ohoud Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of State for Happiness; Her Excellency Mody Al Shamsi, Director and General Manager of the Family Development Centre, and was moderated by Salha Obeid Ghabesh, Director General of the Cultural and Media Office at the Supreme Council for Family Affairs.

Emphasising on need to understand the how women have been treated in the past because that is what is responsible in determining their present and future, HE Al Roumi said, UAE’s concerted efforts in educating and empowering their women have reaped glorious fruits for the nation, ensuring our progress and prosperity. Today, 54% of our government bodies are occupied by women, 70% of our graduates are women, and the revenue generated by them exceeds AED 50 billion.”

“UAE’s vision for 2020, which will coincide with its 50th anniversary, is to become one of the greatest nations in the world. To be able to achieve this goal, we need to launch new strategies and legislations at the federal level to be able to retain and further propel our achievements in the field of women’s advancement, because there can be no development and no progress if our women are left behind,” HE added.

Citing how the UAE embraced the changing concept of gender, walking on the path of women’s empowerment when the rest of the Arab world remained skeptical or rejected it, Mody Al Shamsi said, “His Highness the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Nahyan, Founder of the UAE was always an ardent champion of the women’s emancipation and development and knew it had a direct correlation with the nation’s overall progress. Emulating his vision over the years, we have seen our women thrive and flourish and contribute fully to our society. Act 8 in 1980 regarding the work relationships of women, our Maternity Law in allowing women more freedom to balance their personal and professional lives, UAE’s participation in various international women’s unions and other organisations, the Gender Equality Council in the UAE, and a different building for women’s assures in Sharjah’s Family Courts, are just a few example of the opportunities our country gives our women to realise our fullest potential. It is due to our forefathers’ vision that I have become worthy enough to stand here today and address you all.”

Among other important participants at the session, Malala Yousafzai, a women’s rights activist and the world’s youngest Nobel laureate; Her Excellency Rula Bibi Gul Ghani, the First Lady of Afghanistan and wife of Afghani President Dr Mohammed Ashraf Ghani; and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women were spotted in attendance.

The second edition of Investing in the Future is organised by The Big Heart Foundation, a Sharjah-based humanitarian organisation dedicated to helping people in need worldwide, and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). This year’s theme is ‘Building the Resilience of Women and Girls in the Arab Region.’ It is a two-day event taking place on 19 and 20 October at the Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre in Sharjah, UAE.

Investing in the Future was established to highlight the importance of including women in the economic development process if true progress is to be made. Bringing together a host of international experts in the field of women’s empowerment, the forum focused on providing women with support to meet their needs in education, training, employment, especially for female-headed families in light of the social and economic restrictions imposed on women in many countries.