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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

There is a wide gender gap that will not narrow until everyone is included

It is critical to change how girls, boys, families and our society at large imagine what girls can be and can do

The Sheikha Manal Little Artists Programme at Louvre Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed
The Sheikha Manal Little Artists Programme at Louvre Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed

We, the women of the UAE, have every reason to celebrate Emirati Women’s Day.

On this and every day, we celebrate our achievements, the lessons we have learnt and, most importantly, our continuous progress towards achieving gender parity.

We are extremely privileged in the UAE because we have Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the mother of our nation, who passionately champions us and this very important cause and has tirelessly made it her personal mission to stand as a pillar of strength for every woman from the UAE as well as all those who live and work here.

It is with sadness and regret that I witness the various struggles and challenges that befall women across the globe.

On various continents, too many women struggle to gain access to education and employment as well as fair treatment in the workplace.

However we in the UAE are extremely privileged because our caring leadership has built a world-class infrastructure for women to flourish and progress.

The outside world sees the Middle East as a homogenous whole. However, the UAE has been a leader and a pioneer with its efforts on gender parity and, most importantly, the nation has an amazing pool of female talent across various industries.

These inspiring women shatter glass ceilings every day.

Emirati women have accomplished great feats within their respective industries and have emerged as excellent role models for the region and beyond by succeeding in business, finance, medicine, sport and law.

The UAE is today ranked first in the GCC for gender equality and is also the first country in the Arab world to introduce a mandatory law for the representation of women in government and on corporate boards.

This year is particularly special because Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak announced that this year’s Emirati Women’s Day would carry the theme of “women on the course of Zayed”.

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Read more on Emirati women:

The Al Hanaei sisters excel at the Asian Games

Women lead the way in science

The equestrian quest to get women in the saddle

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To mark this honourable theme, the British Business Group has organised a panel discussion with women who have excelled across different industries. This is also testament to the British Business Group’s commitment to gender parity. Believing in equality and practising equality are not equal.

The latter is an everyday endeavour, a real, practical effort to support gender equality. Some people are not very sure what they can do to promote gender equality.

Working towards gender parity means, in simple terms, recognising the intrinsic value of all people, regardless of sex, race, class, gender identity or ability.

It means we believe that human beings of all identities deserve equal social, political and economic opportunities. To put it simply, it means you believe in all forms of equality.

I strongly believe that we all have an inclusive and important role to play, both men and women, to achieve gender parity.

The gap is wide and it will not narrow unless we make it happen.

We cannot change the futures of our daughters unless we change our thoughts and our beliefs about what women and girls can do if we give them that chance.

I strongly believe it is critical to change how girls, boys, families and our society imagine what girls can be and can do.

We need to ensure we give girls and boys images and role models that expand their dreams. We also need parents to see that there really are opportunities for their daughters beyond being good wives and mothers.

A proven way to overcome many systemic barriers to a woman’s success has been increased female participation in local, regional and national legislation as empowered agents of change.

A woman’s voice and her ability to become a leader in her community is fundamental to empowering all women.

Many nations wish they could achieve gender equality. But in the UAE, we might just make it happen.

Lubna Qassim is a global lawyer, the founding chairwoman of the 30 Per Cent Club GCC and the UAE alliances director of the British Business Group UAE

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