SHARJAH // As a mother of five, Eman Abdulmalik knows only too well the importance of discipline and manners in children.
So much does the issue have a place in her heart, that the Emirati mother is setting up an etiquette school in Sharjah to help coach children from five to 12 years old in basics such as communication via text message and concepts such as respecting one's elders.
Mrs Abdulmalik is one of 15 Emirati women from the Northern Emirates who celebrated the end of their professional diploma course in entrepreneurship for women yesterday.
The course is run by the University of Dubai in association with partners including the Sharjah Businesswomen's Council (SBC), the Citi foundation - a charitable branch of the Citibank group - and the Khalifa Fund, which helps Emiratis with funding to set up their own businesses.
This year was the first time the project has been taken beyond Dubai. Mrs Abdulmalik said the experience for her had been phenomenal.
With no university education, she has just a diploma in the Montessori schooling system to teach early years learning through fun activities. She worked at the Basateen Nursery for five years, and saw first hand the areas that needed to improve.
"When I travelled I could also see how other children were," she said. "In Singapore for example, they are so polite. It's not that our children are ill mannered but they lack the guidance. In this day and age parents want to be friends with their children too, so those boundaries are being blurred."
She said she was careful to instil discipline in her own children, which had now filtered down to her six grandchildren.
She is now studying for online certification from the US-based "super mum" Elena Neitlich, which she will use in her own etiquette school for mothers and children.
"This has been very empowering," she said about the course. "It's like a second chance for me to do something for myself now I've had my children.
"Having your own business is something challenging. It's not an easy thing and gives me the chance as an Emirati to prove that I can do this."
Sharjah-based Alya Busamno, 23, and Azza Al Shamsi, 22, graduates of Zayed University, said the course helped them with their interior design business, Xpoze.
"We knew the design part of the business, but the money matters, the management part, we were kind of lost so this has really helped us," Ms Busamno said.
Ms Al Shamsi said the networking allowed them to share and exchange ideas and experience with Emirati women in all fields.
"Everyone has an idea but there are so many elements to running your own business," she said. "This course helped us a lot."
Usha Kaul Saraf, director of the centre for professional development at the University of Dubai, said not just the training - in areas such as marketing and finance - but also the networking and the moral support provided by the group setting, as well as from the instructors and guest speakers, was of vital importance.
Women from as far afield as Dibba and Khorfakkan were involved in this year's project, which helped about 200 women since it began six years ago.
Mrs Saraf said this year's goal had been to open doors for "opportunity deprived women" from more remote areas.
"So many of these women are so remote from the networking platform and the mentoring they need as well as the training," she said. Even basing the course in Sharjah was too far for some - five of the 25 who began the course dropped out because they could not make it to sessions.
Iman Mohamed Al Midfa, director general of SBC, said the project was "empowering women with the skills and confidence to contribute to Emirati society and the development of the UAE's economy".
It had also helped them see the differences between the public and private sectors.
About 85 per cent of the 14,000 Emirati women who receive allowances had previously refused offers of employment.
"It is very important to have taken this beyond Dubai," said Raja Al Gurj, president of the Dubai Women's Council. "We have to find a solution to the fact that the public sector employs most of the Emiratis.
"Hopefully through this initiative, there will be more Emiratis employed in the private sector."