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Arab World Social Innovation Forum From local to global and global to local

FOCUS AREA: Women’s Participation in Inclusive Growth

Women Empowerment in the UAE FACTS AND FIGURES Arab women have joined the women’s movement throughout the world to demand more independence and greater freedom of individuality. Recent economic prosperity in the Gulf region has prompted many governments to consider the economic and political status of women. Pioneering the region in this respect, the UAE government has openly declared an interest in a greater participation of women in the labor force through offering them high-ranking positions in the government and access to many economic opportunities including public sector positions.

Emirati women total of the population.

22.5% percentage of women representatives in the UAE federal council

Salma Al Baloushi -

9.3% percentage in the Arab world 17% percentage in the rest of the world


UAE is ranked 39th out of 177

percentage of female participation in labor force in UAE



in the Gender-Related Development index and

29th in the world

under the Gender Empowerment Measure


UAE female youth literacy rate


percentage of women

“the highest rate of females in higher education in the entire world.�



CHALLENGES While progress in the UAE concerning the status of women and their roles and rights should be duly noted, they continue to face many obstacles that deserve attention and resolution. According to the 2011 UNICEF Gender Equality 92% 42%

percentage of labor participation for men and women in UAE

the labor force participation rate of women aged 15 and above is less than half that of men in the UAE. Most of the gains women have made in employment have come in the public sector and traditionally feminine careers such as teaching or nursing.

Women still lack opportunity at

Although there has been progress in female

up to two-thirds of the UAE public Fatima Al JaberCEO of Al Jaber Group

women face many challenges in landing leader-

The generation of highly qualified and educated women graduating with distinguished university degrees does not seem to be fully reflected in the UAE female workforce. This may be due to women’s lack of access to the private sector, reinforced by social and cultural norms. There has also been a noted disapproval and social stigma towards women working in media production. Meanwhile, the rate of promotion for men remains higher than women in political spheres.

UAE Minister for Foreign Trade

The expansion of UAE’s economic activities in the last the nation, segmenting many residents according to their nationality, religion and occupation. Accordingly, many groups have been legally, economically and politically marginalized based on these categories respectively.


percentage of women who hold leadership and decision-making positions in female workforce.

This is ensued by the lack of legal

protection and violation of women’s rights through issues ranging from domestic violence to

denying the legal voice of victimized foreign female domestic and informal workers. exclusion of women from male-dominated legal spheres has made it evermore The

challenging for them to assert their rights.

Moreover, two-thirds of UAE residents of have considered themselves victims violence or verbal attacks in which the majority of cases occur at home where women are most likely to be the victims. Many national and foreign women residing in the UAE choose to refrain from reporting harassment based on social and

OPPORTUNITIES There are many advantages for the UAE to pursue a greater participation of women in inclusive ples of such advantages: The UAE will be the harbinger of social change and opportunities for Arab women throughout women at the international level. According to the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerement of Women (UN Women), through a greater participation of women in economic life across all sectors, we will “build strong economies, establish stable and just societies, achieve nities and propel business operations and goals.� Studies have shown that women reinvest whereas men reinvest only

90% of their earnings into their families


Studies have also shown that when the rate of girls who attend school increases by this has a positive effect on GDP, as it increases by Linking women’s participation in inclusive growth to an overall social empowerment strategy will ern feminism and Arab feminism. Better education for women also correlates with health improvement and decreases the practice of female gential mutilation as well as the spread of

3% on average.


LOCAL SOCIAL INNOVATORS The following are examples of women who have created opportunities from their social environments to empower themselves as well as those around them: AISHA SAEED HARIB “Its time to move ahead. I believe every person on earth is gifted and has something to share or pass on. God created us for a reason, and part of his reason is to give back to society in exchange for all that we have taken and learned.” - Aisha Saeed Harib Aisha Saeed Harib launched an online website that serves as a platform for the future generation’s youth to create awareness campaigns concerning those in need of medical help as well as raising awareness about pressing issues in Emirati society. Her initiative, Social Bondage, is a tool for inclusiveness for all groups in Emirati society to bring about positive impact and social change.

ZEINA ABOU CHAABAN Zeina launched a business called, ‘Palestyle’, which aims to empower female refugees and create awareness of the value and history of handmade embroidery, calligraphy and craft techniques that have been handed down by women from generation to generation. While it is based in Dubai, Palestyle strives to provide a stable income for women and children living in refugee camps across Jordan and Lebanon. This opportunity allows women to “escape from the vicious cycles in which [they] can so often become trapped.”


ASHOKA GLOBAL FELLOWS The following are examples of changemaking individuals who have demonstrated positive impact in their communities to create greater opportunities of participation for women. Here are examples of our fellows who have dealt with many challenges throughout their careers. They would prove resourceful for UAE local social innovators in scaling their idea and business. KAREN MATTISON Karen Mattison is changing the UK employment market to create high-quality, part-time employschedule to acommodate family and other personal needs. Through Timewise Jobs, Karen is both creating a pipeline of experienced, skilled women for very senior roles and reducing the high levels of ‘worklessness’ among women by helping employers across all sectors and salary brackets. ANTONIO GARCIA DOMINGUEZ Despite the recent innovations in laws across Europe decreeing equality for men and women in all areas of public life, society is far from being truly egalitarian. Aware of this reality,Antonio Garcia Dominguez is working with a collective that is often overlooked in solving this problem: Men. To involve this half of society in shaping a society in which men and women can live together in the same conditions. Antonio is creating the ity through their own internal transformation and assuming responsibiliy in changin their reality. BALSAM AND LULWA AL-AYOUB Balsam and Lulwa Al-Ayoub are empowering young girls in the Gulf region by proving that women can work in the same arenas as men and excel. They are professional fencers and two of the few women dedicated to professional sports in the Gulf region, where laws and traditions inhibit girls from competing in sports. By competing in international tournaments and mentoring young female athletes, Balsam and Lulwa are showcasing women’s talent and strength to a society that has for the amendment of the professional sports law which does not consider women atheletes, they are opening the gates for others.

CONTACT: Ashoka Arab World Regional 93 Abdel Aziz Al Saud 7th Floor Apt #1 El Manial, Cairo 11451, Egypt Email:

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