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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Emirati Women's Day: the lessons of Sheikh Zayed are still empowering UAE women today

Our late Founding Father told us to be guided by purpose and passion. Now we are celebrating the nation being at the forefront of enabling women to achieve in the region, writes Maryam Eid AlMheiri

Emirati poet Nujoom Al Ghanem reading poetry at the Southbank Centre in London. Stephen Lock / The National
Emirati poet Nujoom Al Ghanem reading poetry at the Southbank Centre in London. Stephen Lock / The National

On August 28 every year, the UAE celebrates Emirati Women’s Day. It is a chance for us to highlight the pivotal role women play in our communities and to honour their remarkable achievements and contributions to building the future of this nation.

As an Emirati woman, I am incredibly proud that the UAE is at the forefront of empowering women in the region. This is thanks to the vision of our leadership, which have long sought to nurture the talent, creativity and the potential of everyone in our society.

I see this firsthand in the media sector, where women are playing a leading role in every aspect from creativity to management. As CEO of the Media Zone Authority – Abu Dhabi and twofour54, I am proud to work every day with creative and enthusiastic content creators who are keen to innovate, collaborate and create.

The theme of this year’s Emirati Women’s Day is "women on the course of Zayed". I would like to mark the occasion by sharing my reflections on how the wisdom of our late Founding Father has influenced the values I champion and encourage all women and men to uphold today and every day.

The first lesson is to set your standards and empower others. Sheikh Zayed encouraged people to unlock their potential through hard work and to “raise their own standards and to be of service to the country”. As a result, pushing boundaries, continuous improvement and generosity have become hallmarks of our nation.

The media industry has so many Emirati women I admire for embodying these values – women who break boundaries to push their industry and country forward to play on a world stage.

I look to Emirati women like Nujoom Al Ghanem for inspiration. As an Emirati artist, poet, scriptwriter and multi-award-winning film director, her powerful poems and films have brought the nuanced complexities of Emirati women’s lives to a broader audience.

Aisha Al Zaabi. Silvia Razgova / The National
Aisha Al Zaabi. Silvia Razgova / The National

Another filmmaker who inspires me is Aisha Al Zaabi, a young up-and-coming Emirati filmmaker, whose short films have already garnered regional and international accolades and shine a light on the creativity and potential of Emirati women across the world.

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Empowering others can take many forms and I can think of no better example than Asma Al Shamsi, who plays the role of Shams, one of the star puppets of Iftah Ya Simsim. Ms Al Shamsi has harnessed her experience as a drama teacher for children with special needs and combined with her flair for performance, she brings to life one of the show’s most beloved characters. Through her performance, she imparts important life lessons and values to the region’s youth.

Emirati puppeteer Asma Al Shamsi brings life to muppet Shams. Courtesy 'Iftah Ya Simsim'
Emirati puppeteer Asma Al Shamsi brings life to muppet Shams. Courtesy 'Iftah Ya Simsim'

Times are changing and it is up to all of us to pursue our ambitions with determination and empower others as well.

Another key lesson is to invest in and inspire young people. Our region has one of the most youthful populations on the planet, with more than half of our people under 25. The future of our country is in their hands. This is a reality that Sheikh Zayed recognised when he said that “a country’s only true resource is its youth”.

This is why a large proportion of our time and effort goes into preparing young people to build a brighter future and to tackle challenges.

Using my industry as an example, at twofour54 we have launched initiatives focused on raising awareness among young people of career opportunities in the media sector. For instance, our annual summer camp uses interactive workshops and talks to help young people develop the skills suitable for a job in the media. And our popular internship programme has seen more than 350 interns placed with twofour54 partners and film and TV productions over the last few years.

We have had a number of successes, like Shaima Al Ammari. Ms Al Ammari is an employee of twofour54 and a Media Youth Council member. She began her journey as a creative lab member, gaining experience on the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and picked up valuable skills along the way, that she puts to good use in the world of media and content creation.

Shaima Al Ammari shooting a video clip at Twofour54. Fatima Al Marzooqi/ The National 
Shaima Al Ammari shooting a video clip at Twofour54. Fatima Al Marzooqi/ The National 

It is also important to give back to your community. Sheikh Zayed taught us to be an inclusive community: to participate, volunteer and support in whichever way we could. He said that “real wealth is hard work that benefits the person and the community. It is immortal and eternal and forms the value of the human and the nation."

Giving isn’t just financial in nature. At its most essential, giving is about making a positive impact to those around you, whether it’s your friends, family, colleagues or wider community.

For instance, next year’s Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi is the perfect opportunity to deploy a wide range of skills for an amazing cause. More than 7,000 athletes from 170 countries will participate and we’re looking for more than 20,000 volunteers across areas ranging from communications to operations and medical to help make this a wonderful celebration of inclusivity.

Above all, be guided by purpose and passion. Hard work, self-improvement, empowering others and contributing to the development of the community are my guiding principles. I am inspired by the people who make up our vibrant community in Abu Dhabi and I’m proud of the nation that we have become.

Maryam Eid AlMheiri is the CEO of Media Zone Authority – Abu Dhabi and twofour54

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