x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Scripting greater gender equality

Creative young women are challenging men's dominance in Emirati society through their films.

At the Gulf Film Festival in Dubai earlier this year, a segment of the event was devoted to short films and documentaries by rising young filmmakers in the region. Outstanding among the competitors was a group of young Emiratis from Dubai's Women's College, who scripted, directed, shot and edited their projects on almost non-existent budgets. In their films, the young women tackled previously taboo subjects such as today's exorbitant dowries and how they are driving Emirati men to marry foreigners; the surge in plastic surgeries among Arab and expatriate women and, more surprisingly, men; and young men's obsession with their cars.

What emerged was a picture of a generation of creative young women unafraid of challenging men's dominance in Emirati society. Whether this creativity will translate into success in the workplace and society in general remains to be seen, but the signs are encouraging. As reported by The National today, women in the UAE enjoy the highest level of equality with men in the Arab world today, according to a report by the World Economic Forum.

Dr Fatima al Sayegh, a professor of history and society at UAE University, said women have "worked hard and got what they deserved" in Emirati society, and praised the country's leaders who have continuously supported women's empowerment. "The leadership has been so keen for women to take their rights, not only because of a social necessity, but because it is a national necessity because of the imbalance in the demographics."

She added that women now out-number their male counterparts in higher education - 75 per cent of all students enrolled - which perhaps partly explains those young filmmakers' prominence. Appropriately, she still sounded a note of caution regarding certain civil rights, such as enabling Emirati women to pass their nationality to their children. Despite the good news, the fact that UAE remains 103rd in the list of 134 countries indicates that a lot of hard work and progress lay ahead. While the news that the country leads all other Arab countries is cause for optimism, the aim must surely be to join the higher-ranked nations on the list.