I am part of a generation that is heard and viewed as equal to men.
The ‘glass ceiling’ is a metaphor for an artificial and invisible barrier that prevents women and other minorities from rising above a specific level within an organisation. I belong to a nation that elevates females to positions where they become part of the decision-making process. I am both thankful and proud to be an Emirati Arab female. I am part of a generation that is heard and viewed as equal to men.
Arab countries have been criticised in the past for not giving women their deserved rights. However, a new generation of Arab women has been catching up to their male counterparts and making headlines. Since the foundation of the UAE in 1971, Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the ‘Mother of the Nation’, has made relentless efforts to advance the cause of Emirati women. She has pushed the UAE into taking significant steps to break this ‘glass ceiling’, opening doors for females across all segments of society. In many ways, Sheikha Fatima has transformed the country, spread hope, and created opportunities for women to contribute to the UAE’s advancement.
Today, Emirati women climb to the highest leadership positions, fly into space, and raise the bar across all social, economic, and political sectors. Some of the UAE’s projects for the future, such as Emirates Mars Mission (Hope Probe) and the Barakah nuclear plant, owe their success to the contribution of Emirati women as much as men. They have relentlessly and together made efforts to safeguard and further the future of our nation. I believe it is time for the world to look at the new Emirati Arab women through this prism.
As a young Arab woman, I want the rest of the world to know that they have so far overlooked the slow yet riveting revolution emerging in the form of Arab women. Emirati women have learned from their older generations. They have broken stereotypes and are now leading the UAE and the region into a new era of modernisation. Today, Emirati women are inspiring models, and there is no limit to what they can do. In today’s Middle East, appearances can be deceiving. The Arab women wearing Western clothes aren’t necessarily the ‘modern’ ones, and those wearing a veil aren’t necessarily oppressed. The ability to balance between ‘culture’ and ‘modernity’ is what makes a modern Arab woman unique.
Conservatives in the Middle East argue that women are becoming too modernised and losing touch with their culture. This cannot be further from the truth. While women are learning to take the lead in commerce, economics, and political fields, they still stay true to values and cultural norms that make them who they are.
Many confuse modernisation as being the opposite of modesty. Perhaps, there is a need to build awareness.
Women can remain true to their culture and religion and stay modest while claiming equal rights, securing employment, and taking leadership positions.
How a mother can raise her children, gain endless knowledge, and help a nation on the path of success are the three questions the world should ask itself. The modern Arab woman is holding the proverbial torch on this front, symbolising womanhood in the modern world. They have the unique challenge and opportunity to keep this torch alight.
Elyazia Jasim AlHosani is the Head of Council for Young Researchers at TRENDS Research & Advisory, UAE