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UAE NATIONAL DAY REPORT 2002 - Women set for nation-building role

posted on 30/11/2002: 1701 views


Exclusive Interview: Women set for nation-building role



History will soon be made when women become members of the Federal National Council (FNC), said Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Wife of President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and Chairperson of the UAE General Women's Union, in a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Gulf News on the eve of the 31st anniversary of UAE National Day.



Sheikha Fatima disclosed that the Union will soon present a list of candidates for the emirate of Abu Dhabi to Sheikh Zayed. He will choose one or two names who will become the first female representatives (for Abu Dhabi) in the FNC.



Adding that UAE women are ready to play a direct role in the decision-making process, Sheikha Fatima said: "UAE women's success in all fields made us enthusiastic for her to take on the position of responsibility, either as a member in the FNC or in the position of an executive minister.



"All these successes have helped in increasing her maturity and awareness of her country's issues," she said. Sheikha Fatima indicated that women's participation in the political arena is a means and not an end by itself. Highlighting other important areas, Sheikha Fatima discussed issues pertaining to UAE society in general and women in particular. These include preparation of the personal law, importance of women's work, teenage delinquency and the role of the media in the third millennium.



She said: "The President - and from the beginning of his rule - has always perceived women as being half of society and I fully agree with him." Sheikha Fatima pointed out that the personal law, which is currently under preparation, will prove to be a safety vault for the UAE family. The law will structure all areas relating to marriage, divorce and the custody of children.



"The stability of the family is our goal and the speedy issuance of such a law will guarantee this stability. The law, in one of its important clauses, will state that a marriage contract will not be registered officially unless the groom is 18 years old and the bride 16," she said.



However, according to her, "the norm will be eased if the court sees good reason for the marriage to be solemnised." She pointed out that following Eid, the Union will convene workshops and a conference on 'Legal Education for the Woman in the UAE' which aims at informing UAE national women about the law.



The workshops will also aim at educating women on their legal rights and how the new law will affect them. The personal law will cover numerous civil issues such as marriage, divorce, alimony and reconciliation of estranged couples. The law will be presented in detail through the media to get feedback from the public about its clauses. Expressing her happiness on UAE women's advancements in all fields, Sheikha Fatima offered her support to them.



Providing statistics on the literacy rate among national women, she said it stands at 88.7 per cent and women occupy more than 57 per cent of university chairs. These figures, said Sheikha Fatima, are ample reasons for women to become active members of the workforce. "This emanates from Sheikh Zayed's belief that the nation needs the efforts of all its members, whether men or women. In addition, Sheikh Zayed, in his wisdom, has realised that dependence on men alone for any modernisation process will be a shortcoming because it will reflect only half of society's energy," she said.



But Sheikha Fatima strongly rejected accusations by some who blame women's venturing into work as the cause behind some of society's ills.



"If some people in our society still hold on to negative perceptions regarding women's roles and rights, then changing (such perceptions) will need additional efforts, either from the woman herself or from the parties concerned with this issue." Sheikha Fatima insisted that she does not believe that teenage delinquency is a widespread problem for which UAE society has to find a solution. Instead, there are individual cases that are being treated and dealt with by the authorities such as the ministries of Health and Interior.



Sheikha Fatima announced that a Higher Committee for Motherhood and Child will be established by next year, which will draw up a strategy on issues pertaining to women, the child and the family. The committee will function as an independent authority and will follow the Cabinet. As the UAE is one of the foremost countries in carrying out charitable projects, Sheikha Fatima described charity work as the "highest national work."



"Social work is not a sign of luxury or a waste of time in a country like ours. Through voluntary work we come to know the general problems faced by people which are an additional burden on the country," she said.



But Sheikha Fatima expressed her desire to see the current generation, especially women, participate in voluntary work. "We need the efforts and energy of female university students."



On the personal side, Sheikha Fatima revealed in the interview with Gulf News her affection for her family. She said: "I see myself as being behind a great man and my role is limited to being a wife and mother to the sons of a great leader." As for her contentment, she said: "I feel that I am at peace when I make sure that the President is in good health and when I see the smile of content in his eyes upon the achievement of something new." Upholding the status of motherhood, Sheikha Fatima said: "Everyday I meet my grandchildren and follow my sons because motherhood is what I value the most." (By Head of Gulf News Research Centre)

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