x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

FNC candidate hopes to make a difference

Abu Dhabi candidate has filled many roles in her 14 years of working - an anecdote from university days shows what she's made of

Noura Al Nowais is hoping to gain a seat on the FNC and involve more Emiratis in decision-making.
Noura Al Nowais is hoping to gain a seat on the FNC and involve more Emiratis in decision-making.

ABU DHABI // When Hazem Al Nowais saw his wife's name on the electoral roll for this month's FNC elections, he immediately knew what it meant.

"I knew straight away she should be a candidate," Mr Al Nowais said.

He believes Noura Al Nowais's thick portfolio of achievements qualifies her to occupy a seat on the council.

Over many years, Mrs Al Nowais has become accustomed to juggling several roles.

While working as a financial analyst at the National Central Cooling Company, she was studying business at Zayed University. And in her free time she took on another role, as a tutor.

"I would be sitting in the cafeteria and see girls in tears because they found especially foundation year English difficult," she said.

"I would approach them and ask what's wrong. They would tell me they feared expulsion due to their low grades."

So Mrs Al Nowais decided to round up first-year students who shared that fear to meet between classes, when she tutored them in English.

"The university applauded me for that because all of the students passed," she said.

After university she quickly moved up the ladder, from shareholder manager to a sales and marketing manager at Al Qudra, to chief operating officer at Viola, the media company.

At Al Benaa Real Estate Investment Mrs Al Nowais was quickly promoted to chief executive, making her the first Emirati woman to head a property company in Abu Dhabi.

That led her to be listed by Arabian Business as one of this year's 100 most powerful women in the Arab world.

"It was challenging but I like challenges," Mrs Al Nowais said.

She said attracting foreign investors to invest in the UAE was especially hard after the economic crash of 2008. But she managed to address stakeholders' fears.

"Thankfully, my company did not lose anything during that time," she said.

And Mrs Al Nowais did not forget her fellow students, signing a deal with the Higher Colleges of Technology for students to receive training from her company.

"Work is a totally different environment to student life," she said. "When you are a student you do not know the number of challenges and stress you will need to deal with at work.

"Sometimes you study something and when you go into the field it is totally different. They need to experience this. This will open new opportunities and solve a lot of problems."

After 14 years of work, Mrs Al Nowais, now in her early 30s, has decided to join the public sector as an international relations adviser at the Department of Economic Development, while working on her doctorate at UAE University.

And this month she has taken three weeks off to run an election campaign she hopes will empower other women and UAE nationals, making them as involved as she is in decision-making.

"I have studied the FNC and the UAE constitution," Mrs Al Nowais said. "I have not made any promises to people. It is so easy to promise people things but that is not our job.

"What I have done is written everything I aim to do within the power of the FNC."

Among her goals is to increase Emiratis' participation in the country's decision-making, establish women's presence in the UAE political scene, and establish a bridge between the Government and the nation.

Mrs Al Nowais hopes to argue for early retirement for women, to help establish a programme for special needs, and to improve education and research.

Beyond that, she wants to represent the FNC locally and internationally.

And with her years in the business sector, she has not ignored the need to advance the Abu Dhabi and UAE markets.

"I have experience in all these fields so I am able to bring in so much to the FNC," Mrs Al Nowais said.

"I very much look forward to be a member in the FNC - inshallah."

osalem@thenational.ae