Women in the UAE

Women in the UAE

Throughout the history of the region, women have been a vital part of society. When the men of what is now the UAE left for up to four months to work in the pearling and fishing industries, the women were responsible for the family´s agricultural needs and for raising children. This was not an easy task in the desert´s harsh landscape and women were respected both for their ability to work the land and because the Quran requires it.

The role of women in the UAE has grown in line with the country's development. The Supreme Council members have been committed to improving women´s lives since the beginning of the Federation.

As the late President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan said, "Nothing could delight me more than to see the woman taking up her distinctive position in society ... Nothing should hinder her progress ... Like men, women deserve the right to occupy high positions according to their capabilities and qualifications."


The right of UAE women to take part in the development of all areas of their society is laid out in the UAE Constitution, adopted when the federation was founded in 1971. It states that social justice should apply to all and that, before the law, women are equal to men. They enjoy the same legal status, claim to titles and access to education. They have the right to practice the profession of their choice. Moreover, in accordance with the Islamic principles upon which the Constitution is based, women are guaranteed the right to inherit property. Although women had these rights before the unification of the emirates, the Constitution reinforced them in legal terms that applied throughout the country.

In order to implement the late Sheikh Zayed's vision of a modern society based on Arab and Islamic traditions, his wife Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak has worked tirelessly to promote the role of women since the creation of the Federation. She founded the first women's society in the country, the Abu Dhabi Women's Society, on the 8th of February 1973. In 1975, the First Lady went on to unite all the women's organisations in the UAE as the UAE Women's Federation. The UAE Women's Federation is an autonomous body with its own budget and planning. Its priority in the early days of the UAE was to promote education amongst women. Now that this goal has been met, the Federation focuses on comprehensive social planning, including the role of women in the workplace.

Illiteracy, which affected up to 85 percent of UAE women at the outset of the federation, had fallen to 7.6 percent by 2005, with female participation at elementary and middle schools equaling that of their male counterparts. In subsequent years, national women have surpassed UAE men and now account for 56.3 percent of students at schools and 70.8 percent of students attending university.

Sheikha Latifa bint Hamdan, wife of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, demonstrated great support for the women of Dubai, working hard to ensure that they received a solid education.


The wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Sheikha Hind bint Maktoum bin Juma Al Maktoum, is also an active campaigner for greater opportunities for UAE women and is convinced that they are ready to take on political roles. In an interview with Al Maraa Al Youm (Today's Woman) magazine she stated that the UAE woman has become intellectually, psychologically and socially qualified to take on any position in any field.

Dubai´s Ruler Sheikh Mohammed is also renowned for his respect and support of women. In accordance with his directives, the Intelaq project was launched in order to encourage women in governmental departments.

UAE women have taken advantage of the educational opportunities available after the discovery of oil; more and more women are continuing on to higher education. The majority of students at UAE University and the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) are women. Besides the traditional fields of education and health, there are many women graduates working in various disciplines such as engineering, science, media and communications, computer technology, law, commerce, and the oil industry.

The percentage of female employees participating in the workforce quadrupled between 1980 and 1990, with the total number of national females working in all fields reaching 100,000 by 2010.

There is a women's corps within the Armed Forces, and a women's military training college has been established in Abu Dhabi, bearing the name of one the great heroines of Arab history, Khawla bint Al Azwar.


At Dubai Police College, the highest-ranked graduates of a six-month training course are invited to join the VIP Protection Corps. Their work demands that the members of the Corps stay in the best possible physical and mental shape. Presently there are 20 women in this squad. Their presence is vital, as many of the people requiring protection are women, and in an Islamic country it is preferable for them to have female bodyguards.

The women of the UAE are actively involved in their country's development.

Sheikh Mohammed said, "Arab women are half our community. Sometimes better than men. Perhaps in the past we lagged behind, but today she is growing to better heights in our society and is able to achieve goals within our communities. She will only grow."

Father of Dubai
, Graeme Wilson, Media Prima, 1999