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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Gender parity on FNC sends strong message to the world

Equal opportunities show government’s determination to harness national potential of women

FNC speaker Dr Amal al Qubaisi / Stephen Lock for The National
FNC speaker Dr Amal al Qubaisi / Stephen Lock for The National

First came the announcement last week that the government is planning to encourage more women to take up leading roles in public institutions such as the judiciary and the diplomatic corps. Now comes the equally welcome news that after next year’s elections, half the 40 members of the Federal National Council will be women. The directive, issued by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa, will see the number of women on the FNC more than double from its current eight and will place the UAE firmly in the top bracket of countries with the highest female representation in parliament.

The government has made clear that it expects employers across the public and private sectors to replicate its actions by increasing the number of women in key roles. This is a clear and powerful message from a government leading by example. The empowerment of women in multiple spheres – from politics to business and aerospace – has been a defining principle of the UAE authorities. Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, the former head of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, became the first woman elected to the FNC in 2006 and was appointed chair and speaker of the body in 2015, becoming the region’s first female leader of a national assembly.

Membership of the FNC is partly by appointment and partly by the votes of an electoral college. As this has grown in size with each of the three elections over the past 12 years – from 6,595 in 2006 to 224,279 in 2015 – so the proportion of female members of the college has also increased, accounting for 48 per cent of voters at the last election. It is indicative of women playing an ever more central role in vital sectors of society and the economy, from law to medicine and engineering. Women already account for more than 46 per cent of the workforce and occupy 66 per cent of government jobs, with at least half occupying decision-making positions.

Boosting the role of women in the nation’s key legislative body is a logical next step. In the words of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, women are half of society and should be represented accordingly.