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UAE reviews its achievements on women's empowerment before UN

posted on 28/01/2010: 1408 views

Geneva - The United Arab Emirates presented on Tuesday its initial report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in accordance with the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women which stipulates that States Parties to the Convention should report periodically to the Committee on the progress they made in the implementation of the provisions of the Convention.

The UAE Delegation, headed by Her Excellency Reem Ibrahim Al Hashemi, Minister of State, included H.E. Mr. Abdulraheem Al Awadhi, Assistant Minister for Legal Affairs and International Organisations at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and H.E. Mr. Obaid Salim Al Zaabi, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the United Nations in Geneva and other members of the Permanent Mission in Geneva in addition to representatives from various UAE ministries and institutions concerned with the issues of women such as the Federal National Council, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Health, Labour, Education, Social Affairs, and Justice, Judicial Department of Abu Dhabi and other UAE Institutions including the General Women's Union, Family Development Foundation, Abu Dhabi Shelter for Women and Children, Dubai Social Development Authority, Dubai Foundation for Women and Children and the UAE Association for Human Rights.

In her presentation, Her Excellency Reem Al HashemI has highlighted the achievements of the UAE in the implementation of the Convention and the progress it has made in the field of protection of women's rights and their empowerment in the society.

The Members of the Committee of the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women have expressed their appreciation for the report of the UAE and commended the progress it achieved in enabling women in the UAE. The Members of the Committee also asked some questions on the content of the report.

In her review of the report of the State, Her Excellency the Minister stated that the UAE government has elaborated consistent strategic plans towards the development of a national legislation so as to ensure a full integration of women's rights and their positive participation in the process of the economic development of the country.

These plans are in line with the principles of women promotion and non-discrimination and come as part of the international obligations of the UAE to implement the provisions of the Convention which is given by the UAE Constitution a binding legal force that is equal to national laws, as is the case to all other similar human rights conventions to which the UAE is a member such as the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its Protocol to Prevent and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children, the ILO Conventions to combat all forms of discrimination against women such as Equal Remuneration Convention of 1957, the Convention on the Prevention of Discrimination in Employment and Occupation of 1958, and the Night Work Convention (Women) Revised of 1948.

In the field of regional cooperation on issues concerning women, Her Excellency the Minister noted that the UAE hosts the office of the Arab Family Organisation which was established in 1977 which includes in its membership almost all Arab countries. In addition, the UAE is an active member of the Arab Women Organisation which was established in 2000, and which carries out its activities through the League of Arab States, as a body for the empowerment of Arab women and strengthening their capacities in all fields as a crucial component for social progress.

Furthermore, Her Excellency the Minister highlighted the degree of attention given by the UAE in the preparation of this report and in its dealings with the Commission, guided by the wise leadership of the State. In this respect, the delegation included members representing most major institutions concerned with women's issues, with the desire to work in transparency and accept challenges and work diligently towards finding solutions to these challenges on the basis of the reality of our society and in consistence with our beliefs and our cultural heritage Her Excellency the Minister also stated that the Emirati women can be proud of what has been achieved in the field of women empowerment in the UAE for a period as short as 38 years, which is also the time of the existence of the UAE, and that can be considered, by all standards, an important and remarkable progress. She referred to the UNDP reports on human development for 2007 and 2008 which have classified the UAE in the 44th rank out of a list of 177 countries and on the 29th rank in terms of woman development worldwide, and in the first rank in the Arab World and GCC countries in the field of women empowerment.

With regard to political rights, Her Excellency the Minister noted that the Federal National Council witnessed a strong representation of women, as it included 9 women members of which 8 were appointed and one was elected, thus accounting for 22.5% of the whole Council.

Her Excellency the Minister further highlighted that the representation of women in the Council for the first time reflects a political wisdom of the leadership of the UAE and the importance it gives to the political participation of women. In this regard, she also indicated that role of women has culminated with the appointment of 4 women Ministers in the current Government namely: Minister of Foreign Trade, Minister of Social Affairs, and 2 Ministers of State.

Her Excellency the Minister pointed out that the entry of women into the political arena is a qualitative turning point in the process of democratic action which the UAE is experiencing, since UAE women have been able to take a prominent status in the society and to assume leadership positions which enabled them to make valuable input and give their thoughts and perspective, and advice in decision making. Her Excellency the Minister added that the UAE women also joined the diplomatic corps within the Ministry of foreign Affairs, as two of them were nominated Ambassadors in the Kingdom of Sweden and the Kingdom of Spain, and a third as a General Consul in Shanghai.

In the justice system, The Minister recalled that a number of women have been appointed at different levels of the judiciary such as Attorney General and judges and reminded the CEDAW members that the first female judge and the first Public Prosecutor nominated in the UAE were present in the room as members of her delegation. She pointed out that there are also women who joined the military and the police and assumed the rank of Brigadier in the armed force, while others have been appointed as Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, and 12 of them are presently in the governing bodies of chambers of commerce and industry.

In terms of strengthening the role of UAE women in the economic field, Her Excellency the Minister noted that the Government has launched a set of initiatives aimed at strengthening the role of women in business and in all economic areas through the development and promotion of women's capacity in order to enhance their contribution in the economic development through the establishment of boards of businesswomen, as well as the launching of a Business Women Award in the UAE.

In the field of education, Her Excellency the Minister cited statistics of the Ministry of Education indicating an increase in the number of women enrolled in general education and technical teaching. She said that their number rose from 15,696 students in 1972/1973 to 145.956 students in 2004/2005 and the number of government female schools has reached 318 schools in the different Emirates.

Moreover, Her Excellency said that in relation to the participation of women in higher education, the United Arab Emirates is considered as of one of the highest in the world with 95% of female students and 80% of male students graduated from high school, with the possibility of choosing to attend national institutions of higher education in the or apply for scholarship abroad. The number of female students enrolled in public higher education institutions has reached 24,880 during the academic year 2005/2006.

In matters of health services, Her Excellency the Minister quoted the latest statistics released by the Ministry of Health in 2007 which indicate that there are 85 hospitals in the UAE, in addition to the 468 centres for primary health care, and 12 centres and 122 units for mother and child for primary health care. She recalled that the statistics of the Ministry of Health show also the decrease of infant mortality at birth, at 5.15 children per 1000 live births, which corresponds to less than 10 deaths of children per year, as the 99% of births are supervised by skilled professionals, thus preventing any maternal mortality due to pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum.

Regarding the health care for mothers and children, the UAE provides all the services needed through primary health care centres belonging to the Ministry of Health in addition to the women's associations which are engaged in the promotion of health awareness. In the near future, a Supreme Council for motherhood and childhood already approved by the Council of Ministers will be established and preparations are presently underway to set up the organisational and managerial structure of this new entity. A Decision has been issued recently by the President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood to set up a High Committee which will be responsible for laying down a National Strategy for Childhood and Motherhood.

As to the social welfare, Her Excellency the Minister pointed out that this issue is at the heart of the Government's strategy since the foundation of the UAE and aims primarily at providing adequate housing, as well as granting a monthly financial aid to 16 social categories of people such the elderly, the disabled, the orphans, the widows and divorcee women. According to Her Excellency, more than 37,848 families benefit from this program as the Government pursues a policy that provides social services by using mobile units for home care which provide health care and medical follow-up for the elderly, as well as giving guidance, counselling and psychological support at home through a medical team which includes doctors, nurses and social workers. She said that more than 11171 of elderly receive social assistance in addition to some specialised institutions which provide daytime shelter services for the elderly without requiring residency with the aim of keeping the elderly within their family environment.

With respect to the issue of trafficking and exploitation of persons, especially women and children, Her Excellency the Minister explained to the Committee members that the United Arab Emirates society is basically a conservative society which strongly rejects all acts which affect women, stressing that the religious and cultural beliefs prevailing in the UAE society deplores such practices. In this regard, she highlighted the different national legislations that were enacted to punish these practices, particularly the Federal Law on Combating Human Trafficking Crimes.

With respect to the issue of labour, Her Excellency the Minister stated that the Government of the United Arab Emirates attaches a great importance to this issue, particularly the employment of domestic workers as it passed in April 2007 a mandatory standard formula for all employment contracts for domestic employees and their employers, at the federal level. At the same time, Her Excellency the Minister said that the common labour law regulates domestic labour within these categories as appropriate with the nature of their profession and the like business while covering other aspects such as health care, salaries and duration of contract as well as giving domestic workers adequate periods of rest in addition to providing health treatment in accordance with the health system in force in the country.

Her Excellency revealed to the audience that the UAE government is currently preparing a draft law on service assistance which includes domestic workers and their employers, as well as all the contractual relationship of employment, including all the rights and duties incumbent upon all Contracting Parties, amongst which the designation of dispute settlement bodies capable of receiving complaints and dealing with litigation procedures in matter of working hours and types of leave and pay. The new law, she said, will be issued soon after completion of the adequate constitutional procedures.

In this regard, she emphasised that the penal laws of the Government consider acts of abuse and physical assault as crimes punishable by penalties including imprisonment and imposing fines.

Regarding the situation of women in the remote areas, the Minister highlighted the attention paid by the United Arab Emirates to such a category of women through the development programs run by the Ministry of Social Affairs which led to the opening of social development centres in these areas so as to ensure that services are provided to the largest possible segments of the population. According to the Minister, these centres provide care and social security, in partnership with working women's associations and their branches which contribute to such activity through education, awareness-raising and care for women in those areas. The Ministry of Education has also participated in the promotion of these areas by opening schools for males and females as well as encouraging adult education to combat illiteracy, with the help of women's associations.

In her concluding remarks, Her Excellency the Minister made a comment on the reservations made by the UAE when it ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. In this respect, She mentioned that the principle of reservations which the convention allows, serve to cope with the human diversities whether cultural, social or religious, which led to constructive global partnership to protect the rights of women in all the 186 countries which have ratified the convention. She assured the CEDAW members that despite the reservations made by the UAE on certain articles of the Convention, the UAE is working on its application to an extent not contrary to UAE legislation and cultural heritage. - Emirates News Agency, WAM


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