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The United Arab Emirates is one of the Economic countries in the Middle East. When the UAE was developed in every field, the government didn’t forget to give the women chance to participate in the development progress of the country. The role of women had changed according to the country development. In addition, the right of UAE women to take part in the development of all areas of their society in the UAE Constitution was implemented when the federation was founded in 1971. Nowadays women are equal to men in all business filed. The participation of women in business has increased if we compared between last 10 years and now according to many reasons. The government plays significant role to support the business women to achieve their goals and success in their business. We have many good models of business women in the United Arab Emirates like Sheikha Lubna, Salma Hareb and other business women who were awarded for their achievements and leadership. Although, the business women still face many obstacles form her society that oppose them from continuing in the business field.
Women Empowerment in the UAE
UAE women have played a most important part of society throughout the history. In the past, women were found only on their home. The essential role women played was taking care of their family life and maintaining the Islamic, heritage, national, and culture values of their children. The role of UAE women has improved with the country development after the UAE federation in 1971. After the current development of UAE society and the active change process that has taken place over the last 36 years. Moreover, the government’s strategic vision considered the women in their main objectives to give them chance to participate in various fields in the society. In addition, according to Abu Dhabi Economics Vision 2030 one of their goals is to support women’s role in public service as well as the private sector and to ensure that all careers in the society are open to them without any barriers.
How UAE government empower the women?
First we should understand the meaning of Empowerment. Some scientists tried to develop definitions of empowerment where the definition provided by Lashely in 1999 by dividing it into several categories such as Empowerment by contribution, Empowerment partnership in making decision and shared responsibility. So the Empowerment is concept that focuses on the human motivation for efficiency. Basically, the UAE understands that it is a national essential for women to participate in the development progress and they can play a demand rule. In addition, the UAE women have a strong support from the government. The Late President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan said, “Nothing could delight me more than to see the woman taking up her distinctive position in society.” Also he added: “Nothing should hinder her progress like men; women deserve the right to occupy high positions according to their capabilities and qualifications.” As Wilson G, 1999 showed.
The important steps that government uses to start helping the women’s empower is giving them an opportunity to complete their studies. As a result, the literacy among the UAE women has increased sharply from the 1980 which was just 22.4 percent to more than 88.7 percent in 1995. In addition, the rate of women in the education is increasing more than the rate of male. Therefore, the higher education has empowered women to get high position in business fields.
Table A1: National Graduates of selection Higher Educational Institutions by Gender 1999/2000- 2000/2001
Higher College of Technology
Institute for banking studies
Source: Ministry of Planning.
From table A-1 we can see that the number of women in all institutions from 1999 to 2001 is higher than the number of the male which gives us a good conclusion of how women start to educate and how this is increased through the time. For example, in 1999 in Higher College of Technology the rate of female is 24% more than male but in 2000 is increased to 92.7 %
Table A2: Enrolled National Students in UAE University, 1977/78, 1997/98 &2002/03
Source: Ministry of Planning and UAE University, institutional Research unit, http://iru.uae.ac.ae/factbook/index.html september25, 2004
In table A-2, it demonstrates that the number of female who enrolled in UAE University increased compared to male rate. For example in 1997 the percentage of female was 79.2 compared to 20.8 in male enrollment. All these percentages prove that women are involved in all education level and this helps them to have a higher education knowledge that enables them to arrange their business plan.
We should not forget the role of Highness Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, Supreme Chairperson of the Family Development Foundation and Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union, of supporting the women in the society. H.H.S. Fatima said: “Women have the rights of work, social security, ownership and business management”. She added: “They also enjoy education, health and social care, equal salaries to men, as well as maternity leave, which is guaranteed by the civil service law.” As mentioned in Gulf News, OCTOBER 31, 2009
In addition, referring to the World Economic final study results in 2010, which was about the labor force participation rate of women in the UAE .this study shows that the number of women has increased from 41% in 2009 to 43% in 2010 and that limited the hole between women and men in many fields compare to 40% value of men. As Abbas W, 2010 posited.
Table 2: Labour Force Participation Rates 1995&2003
Source: UAE Ministry of Planning and CLMRI estimates
From the data presented above, it shows that UAE National Women’s participation in the labour force is increased. There are many reasons that encourage women to enter the work force such as, higher education level of women, government strongly support them, the point view of parent changed against women working and the men understand that woman should have the right to work and contribute in the society.
Businesswomen and Entrepreneurs
The government has encouraged the women and gives them equal opportunities like men in every field. It also gives them the financial support that they need for starting their own business and private projects. The majority of businesswomen are involved in different kind of business such as tailing; fashion, cosmetics’ and salon, nowadays, more than ten thousand business women in the country have run their own business. According to Minister of social Affairs, Mariam Al Roumi, “the capital managed by women amount to Dh12.5 billion(about US$3.17 billion) invested in different fields such as trade, industry finance, tourism, fairs and exhibitions”. As Al Roumi M. 2007, poisted.
The participation of women in economic development has rapidly growth. Now the number of business women in the region increased. According to the Ministry of Economy “about half of the small to medium enterprise sector in the UAE handled by women, moreover, 48% of women business owners their own firms.
Source: UAE population census 1995
From this graph its shows that the businesswomen in the UAE spread across all Emirates. All emirates government is support businesswomen by established businesswomen council in the Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah which have the great percentage of businesswomen. Dubai has the highest percentage which is about 39% while Sharjah is the next one with 29% of businesswomen. Finally, Abu Dhabi has 26% of businesswomen.
Models of Success Business Women in the UAE
There are many examples of how the government empowers the women in the UAE. There are four female member of the Cabinet. First, Minister of Foreign Trade: Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi. Second, Minister of Social Affairs: Mariam Mohammed Khalfan Al Roumi. Third, Minister of State: Dr. Maitha Salem Al Shamsi. Finally, Minister of State: Reem Ibrahim Al Hash.
Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi is the first woman that holds a cabinet position in the UAE, formal minister of economy and current minister of trade. She has a great and useful attitude in holding company and working as a manger for the agency charged with automating the UAE federal government. Sheikha Lubna has been recognized as the most powerful Arab woman and the 70th most powerful woman in the world. (US-based Forbes magazine in its 2010 World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.) Sheikha Lubna encourages women to evaluate their strengths; she said that “hard work and dedication would ensure excellence in all fields; also she added that “women have assumed important roles in business, politics and society “(Forbes ranks Lubna most powerful Arab Woman, Saturday, October 09, 2010, www.Wam.org)
Fatima Al Jaber is the second great example of business women in the UAE. She is an engineer and holding the COO, Al Jaber Group, with significant expertise in the management of international businesses. She was awarded with a prestigious honorary achievement award for her dedication and success in the business world. Fatima Al Jaber is a role model to other UAE business women and her achievements are a good lesson for any emeriti women who want to start her own business.
Fatima Al Ghasimi is another example of students who graduated in June 2007. She opened her own jewelry company. Before she started her own business, she studied jewelry Management course sponsored by Damas. Moreover, she is a member in Mohamed Bin Rashid institution that support youth business program. Al Ghasimi said” women’s role in business has clearly grown, today, we see many local women at the executive level. This is something we haven’t seen before and it encourages all other women to lead their way in the business world.”
Source: UAE population census 1995
The chart shows that the number of businesswomen in Dubai is increasing from 1993 to 2010 around 16%. This means that the women’s participation is growth yearly.
All these achievement of the UAE business women can’t be implemented without the government support. There are numbers of organizations that support women development and investments. General Women’s Union is the first organization which was established in 1975 under the leadership of HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak ,wife of late President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan after the establishment of the UAE federation that support women’s empowerment. The GWU is playing an important role in educating women, taking care of all women issues and creating a good environment for women to reach their goals. Moreover it has been involved in supporting women to set up small businesses.
The UAE business women have established council that protect their rights in business and help other women who want to start new business project. In 2002 the Abu Dhabi Businesswomen Council established and supported by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The main aims of the council are as follows: maintain the leading role played by Abu Dhabi Businesswomen and articulate their ambitions and requirements. In addition, the council will provide distinguished services to Businesswomen to contribute to the national economy and promote Abu Dhabi Emirate as a global hub for economy and finance. The council has almost 12000 members and this number increasing around 2% annually between 2002 and 2006. Moreover, the council running investment worth more than 25 billion dirham’s in different fields including trade, industry, finance and tourism.
Dubai Women Establishment (DWE) was established in November 2006 in Dubai under the presidency of HH Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The important purpose of DWE is creating opportunities to engage UAE women in the country’s development process and supports all businesswomen to start their own business.
Obstacles for empowering women
There are many obstacles that businesswomen face in the society. These obstacles will delay any achievement in business filed. Those obstacles are as follows: social challenges, cultural challenges, economical challenges, educational challenges and working with women.
Social and cultural challenges
The society still has traditional elements which oppose women empowerment in business fields. In UAE a lot of males who still have sharp views on what women should or shouldn’t be doing. Many young ladies who graduated from universities didn’t have chance to get job in public sector because of their parent view. In addition, some of the families still see that the right place for women is at their home taking care of their children.
UAE law requires the licensing of private establishments. Business women who want to start her own business, she faces problems with trade license. For example, if any woman wants to start new business, she should have trade license which is a contract for rental of business location. This means that female entrepreneurs who are operating from home because of the culture reasons that might limit their mobility. So without a license, the operator is barred from printing and distributing business cards As a result, this will limit women’s business opportunities.
The women still tried to have a higher level of education, but sometimes the parent view of completing the education abroad not allow her to complete. Sometimes she needs to travel to attend conference or get courses that will benefit her in business fields so this will limit her business chances. Sometimes, families prevent their daughters to complete their higher education which will cause them to lose the opportunities for developing themselves and their business.
Working with other women
It seems that the main obstacle that women in business face is the woman herself. There’s a lack of sisterhood among the female workforce. In the workforce there were no strong relationship and co-operate between the women because some of them afraid to lose her idea or efforts. Women don’t know how to celebrate the success of their sisters, and this needs to change. Women would try to fail other women instead of building them up. Moreover, this is the reason behind why a lot of women would prefer to work for men.
It is challenging for women to rise in a men dominated society. However, women in the UAE have successfully combated this challenge. Anyone can witness that Emirati women have made exceptional steps in terms of overcoming cultural, social barriers and entering labour market in increasing numbers. They still need more support and facilities from the government to remove any barriers that will stop their progressing. In my point of view, women have played an important role in the country development which approve that women should participate in the country development progress. Moreover, everyone in the society should help women to have a good chance to participate through having education, financial, and emotional support.
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