AL AIN // Young Emirati women need role models who inspire them, but they must also take charge of their own destiny, according to the country's first female judge. "Women are more ambitious these days and are educating themselves," said Kholoud al Dhaheri, who was appointed by the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department in 2008. "The only reason that women were not in these positions before was because their level of education was not high enough, but things have changed."
Ms al Dhaheri, 33, was speaking as part of a panel addressing new students at UAE University, where she received her bachelor's degree in Sharia and law before working as a lawyer for eight years. The legal profession needed more women, she said, because "women have a different point of view, which benefits everyone". Thanks to Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the nation, the UAE had recognised the importance of gender equality, she said.
"We are lucky to be in a country where the government looks after us. University is the gate of life so I want these new students to take it seriously and serve their country." Lubna al Qassim, an Emirati legal reform specialist, said that the appointment of Ms al Dhaheri in 2008 was significant not only for such a young country, but the region as a whole. "We have witnessed recently how this event triggered a legacy in other neighbouring countries," she said. "Today we have two UAE female judges, it is extremely important that we continue the efforts of promoting women in the pursuit of equality in the judicial system."
Five women have been accepted to Abu Dhabi's Judicial Academy since it was founded in 2007, and more are expected in the coming year. About 10 per cent of the 150 judges in the UAE are Emirati, including the two women. Afraa al Ketbi, 26, is in her second and final year of training at the Judicial Academy. "Most countries have female judges and in the future, I hope there will be many more here," she said.