A centre in Al Ain has been created to train Emirati women for the workplace and help them find stable careers.
The centre, under the umbrella of the Shamsa bint Suhail Award Center for Creativity, opened in March and so far has about 60 women enrolled in its programmes.
The initiative is running under the patronage of Sheikha Shamsa bint Suhail Al Mazrouei, the wife of Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE, and is an effort to combat the unemployment rate in Al Ain.
According to a 2009 study by the Emirates Foundation's Tawteen programme, which also helps Emiratis find jobs, about 70 per cent of young women from Al Ain had never been employed because they lacked experience.
At the new centre, women of all ages can receive training and career placement in a variety of fields, including business, graphic design and manufacturing.
Dr Mouza Ghubash, chair of the board of trustees for the Shamsa Award for Creative Women, said that in addition to providing Emirati women with career opportunities and developing their skills, the programme also works to reinforce a sense of national identity.
"We try to train these women how to manufacture products that reflect the culture and heritage of the UAE, such as oud, abayas and perfumes," she said.
The level of commitment required by the participants depends on the chosen training programme, said Hiam Amr, Dr Ghubash's assistant. She added that the total hours required ranged from 20 to 50, with each programme cycle accommodating about 20 students.
"The students participating in the programme then agree on how they want to distribute these hours," Ms Amr said. "We have not set a target for the number of women we want to enrol in this programme because we want as many women as possible to take advantage of this opportunity."
Dr Ghubash and Ms Amr were speaking on the sidelines of a press conference yesterday announcing the dates of the third annual Women in Leadership conference - November 23 and 24 - and the ceremony for the Shamsa bint Suhail Award for Creative Women.
Women in Al Ain said they support the establishment of the training centre, and said finding a job in the area has proved to be a significant challenge.
Ameera Al Athaliy, who has a degree in journalism from UAE University, has been searching unsuccessfully for a job for nearly a year.
"No one has called back once requesting an interview," she said.
Ms Al Athaliy, 26, said pursuing a job elsewhere in the country would be difficult, given the conservative and traditional nature of her family. "Transportation would be tough, and living outside [the family] is not possible."
She is looking for any opportunity, in any field. She said the training centre is an excellent initiative, provided that career opportunities are readily available once women complete the programmes.
"There have been Emiratisation centres before, but many women who completed these programmes still couldn't find a job," she said. "Before investing all this time and money into these programmes, we need to make sure that jobs are available in the market first."
Amal Hamad Al Darmeki, 23, received her public relations degree from UAE University in December, and also has yet to find work.
"I've sent my CV everywhere, in person and online, and I haven't received any response," she said. Like Ms Al Athaliy, Ms Al Darmeki has given up on a career in her field. "At this point, anything will do," she said.
The Shamsa bin Suhail Award for Creative Women rewards women from five different categories for their achievements. Prize money totalling Dh600,000 will be distributed among the winners, who will be announced alongside the two-day conference.