Thursday, November 6, 2014

It's a Woman's World

By: Zainab Kandeh 
Produced & Edited By: Olivia Harlow
At only 43 years old the United Arab Emirates may be one of the newest countries on the map but when it comes to empowering women they stand at the front of the line.

In September of 2014, Major Miriam Al Mansouri became the first female fighter pilot to fly an F-16 fighter jet in the UAE when she led an air strike against ISIL. While Major Al Mansouri’s achievement may open doors for more women in the military her success is a testament to the many successes enjoyed by women in the UAE.
© TheNational UAE
The UAE holds one of the world’s highest literacy rates for women, host women in high-ranking positions including government roles and advocates for the equal treatment of men and women. Though women have been called the backbone of society, popular media portrayals often cast a shadow over the advancement of women in the Middle East and often illustrate a story of oppression.
Words of Wisdom
Legal Consultant and co-founder of the Women Lawyers Group Middle East, Raya Abu Gulal said that while it is heartbreaking to here such misconceptions, it is important for people to remember that no one place is alike, especially in the Middle East.

“The world should understand that women in the Arab world have accomplished a lot,” Abu Gulal said. “First of all, women from the Middle East are different and they are not all the same. Different countries in the Middle East have different traditions and interpretation of religious matters.”
Islam and the veil that many women wear has also contributed to the notion that women in the Middle East are oppressed, however, Applied Communication Chair of the Higher Colleges of Technology’s Dubai Women’s College, Nada Altaher, said she hopes that people will learn to view the veil in another manner.
“I know that my veil sends different messages,” Altaher said.  “I am covering my head but I am not covering my mind.  Whatever I am wearing does not represent my personality and my thinking and who I am as a person. Despite all the differences, I think at the end of the day we’re all human and we should not be prejudice.”
Diversity and Opportunity
Boosting a population of over five million, the UAE is predominantly made up of expatriates.  According to the CIA, only 19 percent of the total populations are Emirati while Arab, Iranian, South Asian and other expatriates make up the majority of the population. Rich in more resources than just oil, the UAE is becoming a country of opportunity for expatriates looking for new experiences.

Australia native and Head of Corporate Communications at Supreme Group, Carissa Crowley, said that she very much appreciates the diversity that the UAE has to offer as well as the opportunities.
“Women occupy some very leading positions in the government,” Crowley said. “There’s a lot of female CEOs here and they’re very respected and I am not just talking about Emirati CEOs. There are a lot of Arab CEOs and Western CEOs in good positions and I think the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he really pushes women to be entrepreneurs and he pushes them to hold management positions. I think from a business perspective the [UAE] is full of opportunity. If you come here and you have education and ambition you can really make something. There’s a lot of government support for businesses to survive and to thrive.”
You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile
© Mina Liccione
One entrepreneur thriving from her business plan to bring joy to others is Dubai’s first lady of comedy, Mina Liccione. A native of New York City, Liccione, moved to Dubai in 2008 and soon after she and her husband opened the first comedy and urban arts school, Dubomedy Arts, in the Middle East and North African region. Though at first the idea of comedy was not well received after much persistence and determination, Liccione’s dream to help others smile has paid off. A multitalented artist and instructor, Liccione said that one of her greatest duties comes from empowering women through comedy.

“I was able to create the first comedy and urban arts school in the MENA Region and use my love for comedy as a tool to bring people of diverse cultural, religious and financial backgrounds together for a laugh all while empowering women’s comedic voices,” Liccione said. “I took a leap of faith in moving here because I believed I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to build something meaningful. It’s not very often that women get a chance to talk about their flaws, and mistakes, in public. We naturally want to show our best self to the world. Comedy allows us to be honest and laugh about it!”
The Sky Is Not The Limit
Empowering one another is a common goal that many women in the UAE share. Assistant Manager of Knowledge Management, Hanan Al Muhairi, founded an organization called Arybana to do just that. In what translates to, Our Right to Ride, Arybana originally began as a female horse riding team but has now grown to become an non-profit organization focused on enriching the UAE community especially on Women’s issues.

Proud of her heritage as an Emirati woman, Al Muhairi said that with the great accomplishments that women in the UAE have made the future can only continue to get brighter.
© Hana Al Muhairi
“The UAE as a country has given women so many support that women now are lawyers, doctors, directors and even government ministers,” Al Muhairi said. “I would say nothing is impossible for Emirati women. If they have strong will and determination, for us, the sky is not the limit.”

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