Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman, General Women’s Union; and Supreme President, Family Development Foundation: Interview

Interview: Sheikha Fatima

How do you assess the balance that has been struck between advancing the role of women and adhering to the values that govern Emirati society?

SHEIKHA FATIMA: Every society has key pillars that define its route to development and the nature of its functions. The structure of a society is present across every stage of its growth. Customs, traditions and values, along with their spiritual, social and cultural dimensions, are at the very heart of a society’s composition. Passing these on from one generation to the next is thus an important indicator of a society’s excellence, and a testament to its cohesion and coherence.

The UAE is a perfect example of this. The country is recognised as an excellent model for how to achieve a balance between the roles of all members of the community and how to preserve the traditions and customs that were forged over its long history. In fact, if one examines the rapid development of its civilisation across different fields, one sees evidence of this.

Women have always been partners to men in contributing to the progress of nations. Promoting their role and status in society is among the major drivers of social renaissance and development. We could even go as far as to say that the non-involvement of women represents backwardness in itself. This idea is precisely what has made the UAE stand tall in the field of women’s empowerment across diverse practices and in line with the country’s strategies and future vision, as evidenced by the reports of international organisations, institutions and development programmes. The UAE is proud of the contributing role women play in its development. Emirati women are cognisant that preserving customs and traditions facilitates, rather than hinders, their empowerment in the different work fields.

To what extent are literacy and education among women a priority in the UAE? What examples are there of progress in this regard?

FATIMA: In order to measure the progress achieved across the different areas of development in the UAE, it is important to refer to the statistics, data and reports issued by specialised national and international bodies. These reports have put the illiteracy rate in the UAE at 1%, a huge advance on the rate four decades ago. Therefore, we are pleased and proud of the excellence achieved in this area.

Education is at the core of the tremendous development the country is witnessing today. This is reflected by the significant level of female education rates across all academic stages, including post-graduate studies inside and outside the UAE and at the most prestigious international universities. Due to the growing scientific development we are seeing in our country, the difference between now and at the country’s founding on December 2, 1971 is immense. It is great to see how things have evolved and how Emirati woman are now involved in the different educational fields.

How is the UAE Vision 2021 development plan structured so as to balance short- and long-term economic goals? What is the labour market’s role in this?

FATIMA: The strategic objectives and dimensions contained in UAE Vision 2021 focus on both general planning and specific mechanisms for implementation. Having an efficient workforce is key to success. This is the approach employed by the UAE as it works towards further development.

Despite some interference between interim and future targets, both are important for achieving our final objectives. UAE Vision 2021 lays out not only how the country’s comprehensive economic goals will be achieved, but also how the overall vision will be implemented across different fields and areas.

Such a plan would not have been conceived without the founders of this vision, the builders of the present and the future, who acquired their skills and educational experience from the different universities and educational institutions both inside and outside the country. Because of their efforts, the development objectives were committed to and duly implemented.

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