Emirati Women in Politics

The women of Emrates are making considerable progress towards greater participation at both the local and national levels. One of the most historic achievements for women across Emirati occurred on February 12, 2007 when the first democratically elected members of the Federal National Council were sworn into office. With women occupying no fewer than 22% of its seats. Nine women are now members of the 40-member body, half of which is appointed, giving it a far higher degree of female representation than any other legislative body in Emirati. The swearing in of the new council members was itself a major milestone in the enfranchisement of women in the Emirati. On December 20, 2006 Emirati women were not only able to vote, but also to nominate themselves as candidates.  The paper will analyze the role of Emirati women, mostly in politics.

The voting was done through electoral colleges in which a quota of preselected voters was responsible for electing half the FNC’s members. In Sharjah, of 1017 people who were eligible to vote, 285 were women. Sharjah also had 27 women competing for the emirate’s three elected seats, the highest number of female candidates in any member of the federation. Although none of these won seats against their male counterparts, women did participate heavily in the electoral process.  According to statistics released by the National Election Committee, the participation rate of female voters in Sharjah was 81.75%, compared with a national figure of 82.2%. In the end only Abu Dhabi handed victory to a woman at the ballot box. However, the government moved to compensate for the hurdles facing women candidates by taking the historic decision to appoint women to eight of the FN’s 20 remaining seats. This decision is but one example of the national leadership playing a prominent role in improving gender equality.  

Although the constitution of the Emirati guarantees equal rights to both genders, local customs have historically prevented women from exercising the full rights according to them by law. Mindful of the needs to both preserve traditions land to modernize the country. Emirati leaders have tried to promote the full participation of women in society, in line with the federal objective of optimizing human resources. Emirati women have played a prominent role in this modernization process through their work in women’s’ associations across the country. The sharjah Women’s Union Association is one of six women’s associations in the country that works in collaboration with the Emirati Women’s Federation, which is headed by SHeikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the widow of the country’s late president. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. In 1975 the federation was created to content all six of the country’s women’s associations with the objective of encouraging women to play a more active role in society.

The federation, which operates under complete autonomy, supports an extensive array of projects, including vocational training, welfare assistance, child care, health education and job placement programmes.  It also organizes regular social, cultural and sporting activities that aim to encourage women to become more fully engaged in society in general. Women’s associations have played a pivotal role in eradicating illiteracy in Emirati. As a result of the considerable work that woman’s groups have done in this field, female literacy rates now match those of males in the Emirati and more women are currently enrolled in universities than men. Having acquired better access to education, Emirati women are also joining the national workforce and, although their rate of participation is relatively low, the figures are rising. In an effort to boost women’s participation in the job market, the Women’s Federation successfully lobbied the government to revise Article 55 of the country’s labour law to offer far more generous maternity leave provisions. Women are now entitled to up to three months’ leave with full pay as well as six months’ leave at half pay, and are able to use this right as often as five times during their careers. On the other side, since the commercial exploitation of oil, the role of women in Emirati society has changed. Before 1960, there were few opportunities for women, who were tied to the home and their family. By 1988, however, women constituted 6.3 % of the labor force. In the ministry of education and the Ministry of Health, four out of every five employees are female. Around 1990, the emergence of the knowledge-based economy in the Emirati, characterized by a number of well educated women, lower illiteracy rate, access to a global information on women in other societies, non-hierarchical organizational structures and the appearance of women in corporate leadership positions has led to a liberation of views in the Emirati. In recent years, this liberalization of attitudes in the Emirati society has coincided with women being well educated and this has led to the demand for equality of opportunity in employment.

In conclusion Furthermore, growth in the knowledge economy and the drive for Emiratisation has led to a need to utilize the female human resource. In the foreseeable future, reduced bureaucratic organizational structures in multinational corporations will lead to a broader participation of all employees in decision making and change.  Women are well suited to the new post-contingency flat flexible organizational structure and demonstrate many qualities suited for the economy of the future. The emergence of a host of female Emirati role models within Emirati society is testament.

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