ABU DHABI // When Wahda al Marri started her career in 1978, working women were not common. "Because I was one of the first local women to work in the television field people looked at me in a different way," the 49-year-old Emirati woman said. "The work itself was fine. I didn't have as much problems with my colleagues as I had with society. Some other families would look at us in an odd way. They didn't want us to get involved with their daughters because they were afraid. It was just the beginning for Emiratis to come up."
She said much has changed in three decades and that women are far more likely to be accepted in the workplace. However, young women today actually face several challenges the women of Ms at Marri's generation did now know. "It wasn't difficult to balance family and work because my mother was living with me. She wasn't working and was looking after the children and the house if I wasn't there." The working hours were shorter then, and she could drop off her children on the way to work and pick them up again afterwards.
"As a mother, I could afford to have a driver to take my children to school but I refused it because I thought it was the best time for me to have that bond with my children. Back then, by 1:30 everyone would be finishing work, so it was easier. Life was much easier in the old days." She said that women have a much harder time now managing their responsibilities as mothers and employees. "Working hours have become longer and the traditional Arabic local life is not there any more," she said.
"Now you get married and you go and live in a flat with your husband and you don't have the family to help you the grandmother, the grandfather. There was more family around and you don't have that any more." These changes in society affect women the most because it is their support systems that are becoming fragmented. Instead of relying on their families many have to resort to hired help to manage their workloads.
"The western life has had a big impact on the way we live, with Emirati women in particular," she said. "It really hurts me to see it." firstname.lastname@example.org