x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Empower women of Western Region

Changing attitudes and empowering women in the Western Region will only happen when the opportunities for work and study present themselves there.

The world's largest solar power plant lies in Madinat Zayed in Abu Dhabi's Western Region. By 2017, the Arab world's first nuclear power planet will be in operation in Barakah. And the western expanse of Abu Dhabi emirate possesses some of the largest oil and gas reserves on the planet.

But despite all this the Western Region - Al Gharbia - lacks many basic facilities for residents who make up 11 per cent of the emirates's population. A lack of schools, hospitals, supermarkets, grocery stores and parks means the region offers limited job prospects, a fact that is particularly true for women.

And it's a reality that has not gone unnoticed in the capital.

As The National reported yesterday, the Executive Council has approved a Dh1.5 billion budget for infrastructure projects in Abu Dhabi, including the improvement of the 80-kilometre, double-lane motorway linking Madinat Zayed with Ghayathi. The road enhancement is just a start; it will literally pave the way for other development projects to go forward.

Earlier this week a report from Abu Dhabi's Department of Economic Development (DED), for instance, recommended opening a branch of the Petroleum Institute to add more education opportunities, for both men and women, in the traditionally male dominated field. Other projects are being considered.

For too long residents of Al Gharbia have had to move to work or study. Fine for the region's men, such moves have been nearly impossible for many women in the more traditional parts of the emirate.

This concern underscores the DED's biennial competitiveness report. As the undersecretary at the department, Mohammed Omar Abdullah, told The National: "There are a lot things that need to be done ... from education to training and acquiring specialised skill sets for UAE nationals - and women in particular."

Today women make up only 4 per cent of the Western Region's workforce, largely due to a shortage of suitable jobs.

But changing attitudes and empowering women will only happen when the opportunities for work and study present themselves. The brick and mortar projects being announced now will help push this goal one step closer to reality.