Women in the United Arab Emirates

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Women in the United Arab Emirates
General Statistics
Maternal mortality (per 100,000)12 (2010)
Women in parliament17.5% (2012)
Women over 25 with secondary education73.1% (2010)
Women in labour force43.5% (2011)
Gender Inequality Index
Value0.241 (2012)
Global Gender Gap Index[1]
Value0.642 (2018)

There is substantial discrimination against women in the United Arab Emirates.[2] The status of women has improved over the years. UAE performs better on metrics of gender equality than many other states in the Gulf region.[3][4]

Some laws continue to discriminate against Emirati women. For instance, Emirati women must receive permission from a "male guardian" to remarry.[5] This requirement is derived from Sharia law, and has been considered a federal law since 2005.[5] However, these laws are paper laws in effect with the acculturation of post-modernistic gender roles. A research points out that emancipatory movement within the patriarchal society is made possible by the Emirati woman through a mix of strategic obedience and light acts of flouting the power differential boundaries with their Emirati men.[6]


The role of women in society in the UAE has gradually expanded since the discovery of oil. Before 1960, there were few opportunities for them outside the realm of home and family. In the early 1990s, there were five women's societies promoting various issues of importance to women, including literacy and health.[7]

In 2002, the government created an official business networking system for women in order to overcome the lack of networking between them. There are currently 12,000 members with over $6.81 billion (USD) in investment capital.[8]


As 2006 statistics show, less than 20% of Emirati women were part of the national labor force.[9] The UAE has the second lowest percentage of local women working in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).[10] In 2008–2009, only 21% of Emirati women were part of the labor force.[10] The UAE has the highest percentage of total female labor participation in the GCC (including expatriate women). However, Kuwait has the highest percentage of local female labor participation in the GCC because more than 45% of Kuwaiti women are part of the national labor force. At the nine-year-old Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, women constitute 43% of its investors while the city's Businesswomen's association boasts 14,000 members.[11] At the forefront of Emirati women in business is Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan al Qasimi, appointed Minister for Economy and Planning in November 2004 and subsequently promoted to her current post as Minister of Foreign Trade. Sheikha Lubna holds the distinction of being the first woman to hold a ministerial post in the country. Her efforts have led her to be rated within the Forbes Magazine's 100 Most Powerful Women.[12]

Dubai Women Establishment[edit]

Dubai Women Establishment, led by Her Highness Shaikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is the first government entity in the UAE that supports and focuses on women in the workforce. The main objective is to increase the effective participation of Emirati women in the workforce through different means and tools. They look at international reports and rankings and monitor the UAE rankings and growth, and aim to positively impact Global Competitive reports & the Gender Gap report. DWE is involved with research, policy proposals, and activation of women-related regulations in Dubai and the other Emirates, as well as attending networking events and forums, and working on customized development programs, projects and initiatives. The aim is building bridges, sustainable leadership for women, international representation of Emirati women and women in boards. Impact of DWE includes the creation of six on-site children's nurseries at various organizations, which has led to a higher level of female retention and lower turnover rate, also that of Women in Board initiative, where special attention is given to increasing Emirati female representation in boardrooms.[13][14]

The Arab Women Leadership Forum[edit]

The Arab Women Leadership Forum, took place in November 2014, which was hosted under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai. This two-day forum focused on competitiveness and how women can contribute to the rankings and growth of countries.[13]

Politics and government[edit]

Within the public sector, governmental employment for Emirati women has increased from 11.6% in 1995 to 22% in 2005 and 66% as of June 2007.[11] In September 2008, Dr. Hissa Al Otaiba and Sheikha Najla Al Qasimi became the UAE's first female ambassadors, serving Spain and Sweden respectively.[15]

The UAE became the second Arab country with a female marriage registrar after Egypt.[16] By 2006, women have accounted for over 22% of the Federal National Council.[17] The UAE's minister of state post is Reem Al Hashimi, who is the first female minister to be in this position and have that role.[18]

Emirati women must receive permission from male guardian to remarry.[5] This requirement is derived from Sharia, and has been considered a federal law since 2005.[5] In all emirates, it is illegal for Muslim women to marry non-Muslims.[19] In the UAE, a marriage union between a Muslim woman and non-Muslim man is punishable by law, since it is considered a form of "fornication".[19]


The 2007 report on the progress of MDGs in the UAE states, “the proportion of females in higher education has risen remarkably at a rate that has not been achieved in any other country in the world. During the years 1990 to 2004 the number of female university students has grown to double that of male students. This is the result of the promotion and encouragement of women’s education by state and family.”[20] Upon completion of high school, 95% of Emirati women continue on to higher education and comprise 75% of the student population at the Al Ain national university. Women comprise 70% of college graduates in the UAE.[17][21] According to Dubai Women's College, 50-60% of its 2,300 students proceed to seek employment upon graduation.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2018" (PDF). World Economic Forum. pp. 10–11.
  2. ^ "Human Rights Watch Submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the United Arab Emirates". Human Rights Watch. 2021-03-04. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  3. ^ "UAE's gender equality awards won entirely by men". the Guardian. 2019-01-28. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  4. ^ Purtill, Corinne. "The terrible optics of the UAE's "gender balance" awards hides a more complicated story". Quartz. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  5. ^ a b c d "Divorcees, widows concerned about receiving 'permission' before remarrying". The National.
  6. ^ "'Strategic (dis)obedience': Female entrepreneurs reflecting on and acting upon patriarchal practices - Wiley Online Library".
  7. ^ United Arab Emirates: A country study. Federal Research Division. January 1993. Status of women. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  8. ^ Goby, Valerie Priscilla (Jul 2011). "Female Entrepreneurship in the United Arab Emirates: Legislative Encouragements and Cultural Constraints". Women's Studies International Forum. 34 (4): 329–334. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2011.04.006 – via EBSCO.
  9. ^ The Emirati Workforce Page 30
  10. ^ a b Kuwait: Selected Issues and Statistical Appendix. International Monetary Fund. 2012. p. 43. ISBN 9781475527414.
  11. ^ a b "Women in the United Arab Emirates: A Portrait of Progress" (PDF). UAE Ministry of State and Federal National Council Affairs (June 2007).
  12. ^ “The 100 Most Powerful Women.” Forbes (2007).
  13. ^ a b http://vision.ae/articles/why_emirati_women_are_taking_notes_on_the_swedish_workplace
  14. ^ http://www.dwe.gov.ae/index.aspx
  15. ^ "Sheikha Fatima hails ability of UAE women to undertake national responsibilities." The National Media Council: UAE Interact (September 2008).
  16. ^ “Fatima is UAE's first woman marriage registrar.” Gulf News.com (November 2008).
  17. ^ a b "On "Human rights day", Emirates first among Arab countries and (95%) women's participation in higher education". mohesr.gov.ae. Retrieved 2015-02-07.
  18. ^ "The Business Year". thebusinessyear.com. Retrieved 2015-02-07.
  19. ^ a b "United Arab Emirates International Religious Freedom Report, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2009)". state.gov. Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. Retrieved 2015-02-07.
  20. ^ UNDP Millennium Development Goals United Arab Emirates Report (PDF), p. 14 (March 2007).[dead link]
  21. ^ "UAE–US Relations: Women's Issues brief". Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2015-02-07.
  22. ^ "Dubai Women Storm World of Work". BBC News (August 2005).