Promoting women’s rights
The UAE is fully committed to the promotion of women's rights and considers the empowerment of women fundamental to the development of a modern and progressive society. In the UAE, women participate on an equal basis in civil, economic, and political life.
Since its founding as a federation in 1971, the UAE has placed significant importance on the empowerment of citizens, male and female alike. The UAE Constitution guarantees equal rights for all, affording them their entitlements in legal status and access to health, education, and employment.
On August 28, 2015—the 40th anniversary of the launch of the General Women's Union—the UAE held its first Emirati Women's Day, a national celebration of the role of women in society.
Gender equality is also part of the UAE's Vision 2021 National Agenda, which aims to safeguard women from all forms of discrimination at work and in society and empowers Emirati women in all spheres.
The National Strategy for Empowerment of Emirati Women in the UAE for 2015-2021 was launched by Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union (GWU), President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation (FDF), on March 8, 2015, on the occasion of International Women's Day. The strategy provides a framework for government, private sector, and civil society organizations to draft plans to position the UAE among the most advanced countries in the area of women's empowerment.
In the elections for the Federal National Council held in October 2019, 200 women filed for candidacy among 555 registrants, making up nearly 36 percent of the total. Of twenty new members elected to the Federal National Council, seven women won, making the UAE one of the first countries in the world to have women as half of the FNC members. Women are involved in key portfolios intertwined with the empowerment of women both nationally and internationally, such as international cooperation, social development, public education, and youth.
The UAE Cabinet has also adopted a number of policies to promote the participation of women in the judicial sector, international missions, and peacekeeping operations.
The UAE also leads measures of female empowerment within its diplomatic service. As of October 2019, 49.5 percent of the employees of the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation were women, including high-profile female ambassadors in major embassies such as the UN Mission in New York and postings in the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, and Denmark. Women make up about 60 percent of Emirates Diplomatic Academy graduates.
While the federal government has demonstrated its commitment to empowering women at all levels, the private sector in the UAE has similarly demonstrated the importance of female representation.
In December 2012, the UAE Government issued a decision that mandated the presence of Emirati women on the boards of directors of federal bodies, private companies, and institutions. In May 2015, the government established the UAE Gender Balance Council to ensure that Emirati women continue to play a leading role in the country’s development. The Council carries out several functions, including reviewing legislation, policies, and programs to achieve gender balance in the workplace.
The UAE is also working to expand the participation of women in the workforce. Women occupy 66 percent of public sector jobs—one of the highest proportions worldwide—including 30 percent of senior leadership positions associated with decision-making roles. Women occupy 75 percent of positions in the education and health sectors. 23,000 Emirati businesswomen run projects worth over AED50 billion and occupy 15 percent of the positions in the boards of chambers of commerce and industry nationwide.
Support for UN Women
The UAE is working in partnership with other countries and through the United Nations to promote the rights of women and girls everywhere.
The UAE was elected to serve on the Executive Board of UN Women, the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, for two terms, from 2013-2015 and 2016-2018.
The UAE has supported UN Women since its establishment in 2010 and has provided approximately USD 26 million to its core budget to support efforts to promote gender equality and women's empowerment, including through the UN Women liaison office in Abu Dhabi. The office strengthens partnerships with the UN on women's participation and women’s empowerment.
Promoting the equal right of every girl to education
Education is key to the economic empowerment of women. According to the World Economic Forum's 2014 Global Gender Gap Report, the UAE essentially reached equality between men and women in educational attainment. 77 percent of Emirati women enroll in higher education after secondary school and make up 70 percent of all university graduates in the UAE.
The UAE promoted the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl during its membership of the UN Human Rights Council. In June 2017, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously passed a draft resolution put forth by the UAE during the 35th session of the Council in Geneva on the right of girls to receive an education. The resolution called upon states to eliminate obstacles to girls’ education, including discriminatory policies, poverty, tradition, religious considerations, or financial hardship. It also called for additional action to ensure the safety of girls outside the school perimeter against sexual violence and threats posed by terrorist groups.
The UAE also initiated a joint statement by 75 countries at the Human Rights Council in June 2014, which condemned attacks on girls because they attend or wish to attend school. The UAE led in the unanimous adoption by the Council in September 2014 of a resolution to convene a panel discussion at the Council's session in June 2015 to share lessons learned and best practices on realizing the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl.