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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

New desk calendar charts stories of inspirational Emirati women

Ahead of its National Day launch, the creators of the calendar are only releasing hints about who these women are

12 Emirates tells the stories of unsung heroes. Courtesy Sara Al Madani
12 Emirates tells the stories of unsung heroes. Courtesy Sara Al Madani

For a Polish resident of the UAE Kate Siuda, it took becoming friends with two accomplished Emiratis to realise just how off-base her perception of Emirati women was.

The two women in question? Sara Al Madani, 31, and her friend and business partner, Haleema Al Owais, 34. “She always had the wrong impression about the women in this country,” recalls Al Madani. “The typical stereotype. And then when she became friends with me and Haleema, she realised that she had it all wrong. That the women in the UAE are the most productive women she’s met in her whole life, and she’s travelled all over the world.”

Once her mind was opened, the 32-year-old Siuda, who runs a logistics consultancy, wanted to get the message out to anyone else who might have been similarly misinformed. “We sat down and we were all brainstorming, and we were like: ‘What about if we shed light on unsung heroes?’” says Al Madani. “All these women in the UAE who have done so much, who have changed their lives and the lives of the women around them. But nobody knows who they are.”

They came up with the idea of a desk calendar (appropriate because, “we are all very organised, because we are businesswomen,” says Al Madani) that would dedicate each month to the unknown story of an inspiring Emirati woman. “And the whole month is dedicated to her,” says Al Madani. “So there’s 30 questions spread out over the whole month, there’s a bio, there’s quotes that every day you can write in your journal or your calendar; you can be inspired by them.”

The spine of 12 Emirates 2018 calendar. Courtesy Sara Al Madani
The spine of 12 Emirates 2018 calendar. Courtesy Sara Al Madani

The cover is beautiful, with an abstract depiction of a woman wearing a burqa. Inside are stories that the trio spent three months finding, often through word of mouth. “These kinds of people, you don’t find them on social media or online, because they are unsung heroes, so we had to go talk to people in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Fujairah to find these stories,” says Al Madani. “We found a lot of great stories, but we picked the ones that were least known by name, but huge in their accomplishments.”

Ahead of its National Day launch, the trio are only releasing hints about who these women are. One was the first in her family to go away to a mixed university, only to have to grieve the deaths of her aunt’s family during those tough first few months at school, says Al Madani. Then, before graduating, that same woman got into a terrible accident. She took her finals from a wheelchair, and had to learn how to walk and write again with the help of physiotherapy.

There is an artist who bucked tradition by marrying an Italian man, and poured the emotion from leaving her culture behind into her paintings, and also a parkour athlete who had to fight back to her sport after undergoing major surgery on a broken hand.

The goal, Al Madani explains, is to celebrate the hardships behind the accomplishments, and for the diary to serve as a source of strength and guidance for each owner.

“I want this calendar to inspire women every single day because to me, to create your dreams and create a business, or to be somebody, it’s not technical things, it’s more emotional things, it’s an emotional journey,” says Al Madani. “And this book will prepare you emotionally for it. Every day there’s a question, every day there’s an answer; there’s an inspiration in every single thing.”

It’s no wonder Al Madani and Al Owais, who runs her family’s construction company, changed Siuda’s mind. Friends for years, the pair are also business partners in the Mamzar-based café, Sharbarbush.

Al Madani runs Sara Al Madani Fashion (formerly Rouge Couture); is a partner in a tech and production company in Los Angeles; has a creative consultancy; and is the youngest member on commerce boards in Sharjah and Dubai. She’s also a single mother to two-year-old Maktoum. So no Netflix binging on weekends for her, then?

“No, it would kill me!” she says. “I always tell my friends, if I could have 48 hours in a day I would take them in a heartbeat.”

The 12 Emirates calendar will be available to buy from December 2. See the 12 Emirates Instagram page for details on where to order online and buy it in stores. Or pre-order through info@12emirates.com

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Second instalment of Al Ain tour My Old House announced

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