x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Women should be more involved in making decisions, professor says

Many of the obstacles to the empowerment of Emirati women are embedded in social and cultural behaviour, a conference hears.

DUBAI // Many of the obstacles to the empowerment of Emirati women are embedded in social and cultural behaviour, a conference honouring International Women's Day heard yesterday. The fact that Emirati women, if they marry a non-Emirati, cannot pass their nationality on to their husbands and children, and because they are generally at a disadvantage in custody, divorce, and polygamy cases, show that women still have a long way to go before achieving proper empowerment, said Dr Rana Raddawi, a professor from the American University of Sharjah.

"Empowerment for women means her having full participation in the decision making, whether it be at work, home, or in her personal life," she said. Men should involve women in making decisions, she said, but "certain cultures and societal norms here prevent women from achieving this". Women were taught, through society, to see other women as a threat, rather than a companion, as the "other woman" may turn out to be the next wife of her husband. "How are the women expected to work together in solidarity if they feel threatened all the time?" said Dr Raddawi. She was presenting a seminar titled "The Role of Culture in the Empowerment of Arab Women: UAE".

Yet, some Emirati women present at the seminar disagreed with the professor, saying that the Emirates, in a short lifespan, had achieved more for women than had neighbouring countries, such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. nsamaha@thenational.ae