Jawaher Al Qasimi: Empowerment Not A Feverish Race Between Men And Women

Sharjah: Emirati women have a highly respected status locally, regionally and globally and statistics and surveys conducted by independent and international entities consistently confirm their ever-increasing role as leaders within the community, said H.H. Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, NAMA, and wife of H.H. the Ruler of Sharjah.

Speaking to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), H.H. Sheikha Jawaher, who is also Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs and The Big Heart Foundation added, “Reaching this stature is because of the vision and wisdom of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founder of the UAE, as well as the justice, equity and ongoing support of the leadership since the founding of the nation, which has provided equal opportunities and empowered men and women alike.”

“When we address the empowerment of women, we should also address the sponsorship, dedication and wisdom of H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Mother of the Nation, a leader and role model for all Emirati women,” she added.

Speaking about strategy adopted by the UAE to empower women, Sheikha Jawaher said, “There are four principles that have enabled women’s empowerment in the UAE to achieve such remarkable progress. The first principle: Empower women in line with their characteristics as women, without trying to instill in them the qualities of men. If we put women in an empowerment trajectory that forces them to be like men, we will do both an injustice, because their uniqueness will be lost. Empowerment is not a feverish race between men and women to benefit one party over the other, but creative teamwork to fulfil the high national interests of the UAE.

“Through empowerment policy, we seek to elevate social, cultural and economic realities in the UAE and develop the stature of women and men together. We do not aim to make one of them a role model for the other because it will further complicate the social reality and harm the inclusive social vision.”

The second principle, she continued, is that “We are keen to clear any misunderstanding of women empowerment policy, which do not mean that women are weak and need special plans and programmes to help them.

Contrary to that, the empowerment that does justice to women is the one that overcomes the hurdles they face and enables them to develop their capabilities and hone their talents within a competitive framework that stimulates them to develop their personal capabilities. I am neither for women’s employment purely because they are women and need special treatment, nor for giving them high-ranking positions just to achieve a superficial balance and equality between men and women that can be recorded in statistics as a success.

Our leadership has taught us to have faith in women and to trust them because they can achieve success. Our mission is to achieve justice and equal opportunities for women and men in education, employment and leadership. The essence of empowerment is justice, not to give special treatment to one gender over the other.”

The third principle, she added, is to provide legal protection to women’s achievements and recognise them as national social achievements. “Thanks to the directives of the wise leadership, we have been able to foster these laws and promote them among the Emirati community as noble habits that are implemented in families and institutions.”

She noted that the fourth principle is related to the UAE’s unique empowerment experience “in view of its culture and heritage and the authenticity of Emirati history. It is not a copy of any other nation’s previous empowerment policy and while it is true that there are several issues and characteristics that are shared with international experiences, they are not identical.”

Speaking about NAMA’s vision, mission and objectives, H.H. said, “NAMA’s key vision is to overcome all cultural, social and economic barriers that prevent women from developing themselves as instrumental players in the process of integrated development. It also supports laws and legislation that protect and foster women’s social achievements.

“NAMA aims to nurture women’s capabilities and guide them to become partners in achieving the UAE’s vision established by the wise leadership. Fostering partnerships and productivity in any community has become an indispensable requirement to achieving sustainable development and creating a strong community capable of building a better future.”

“We look forward to promoting Emirati women’s empowerment globally through the many high level relationships forged by NAMA, such as the strategic partnership with the United Nations in the ‘Entrepreneurship and Gender-responsive Procurement’ initiative, one of the flagship programmes of the UN Women’s ‘Women Economic Empowerment’ initiative,” she added.

“NAMA seeks to further the positive impact of the role played by Emirati women worldwide using a variety of channels, such as organising international events and exhibitions that highlight Emirati women’s contributions and establishing the Sharjah Business Women Forum. We have always been keen to foster collaboration with international entities dedicated to women’s development and empowerment to overcome common global challenges.”

On the views held by some people who reduce the concept of women’s empowerment to the economic sector, limiting it to business and entrepreneurship, Sheikha Jawaher said,” This perception is as unfair and unjust to women as it is to the community, because it distorts the concept of empowerment and does not recognise women as social partners who have a vital role in the family, community and workplace. Women cannot be decision- makers in any organisation if they are not decision-makers in their families and community. They also cannot achieve economic success if they do not live in a stimulating social environment in which their capabilities are recognised and their confidence and self-esteem are encouraged and supported.”

“Work and the economy are important, but they are not the only form of self-expression. Women are artists, authors, novelists, poets and volunteers in the charity and humanitarian sector. There are also women who are homemakers whose social conditions prevent them from working but they succeed in their mission and duty of bringing up young leaders who will build a brighter future. In short, there is not one form of success, there are multiple forms and this is the concept of empowerment we are trying to foster.”

On why is it crucial to include women in peace making, Sheikha Jawaher said she is not inclined to make comparisons between the sacrifices of women and men in wars and civil unrest, because both pay a high price and suffer irretrievable losses. “We handle women during wars in a very special way, because they bear the responsibility of ensuring the family income, bringing up their children and maintaining their commitment to the community as a whole. We should also remember that wars and conflicts influence the achievements made by nations throughout their history. These achievements, especially in terms of justice, fairness and equality, ensured a prominent status for women, and so they have the right to defend and preserve those achievements.”

This makes it vital, she stressed, to empower women to play a pivotal role in peace making and campaigning against all forms of violence because it is “a primary cause of suffering for their families and the society in which they live. In the year 2000, the Security Council adopted resolution No.

1325 on Women, Peace and Security, which comprised an alliance between Member States and a host of international women’s organisations. The resolution reaffirms the role of women in peace negotiations, peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction, and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. It also reinforces the mandate that women’s visions and rights should be taken into consideration when negotiating social and economic re-integration with regards to the constitution and citizenship.”

Sheikha Jawaher said the international community should be fully aware that the world cannot achieve development, stability and sustainability, and cannot eliminate hate, violence and extremism without helping refugees and ending their suffering once and for all.

“The international community should be more instrumental in addressing the causes of war, and the effects of armed conflicts, poverty and climate change among others. Unfortunately, the international community has not invested sufficiently to combat those conditions as a direct result of political considerations and self-interest. The global population expects much more and we should not let them down, because that will lead to more social disintegration, marginalisation and conflict.”

“Individuals who have had rights through their own constitutions, laws and customs often lose legal protection when they seek asylum in other countries. In this case, host nations should compensate refugees for their loss and provide them with the right to protection, education and healthcare. It must be universally recognised that refugees are victims of events beyond their control, fleeing their homes through circumstances imposed by politics and the interests of major powers.”

She added that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 1951 Refugee Convention Treaty also known as the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, is legally binding to all Member States. “It provides a regulatory framework to define who a refugee is and sets out the rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum. In view of the growing number of refugees in the last decade, it is important to revise previous agreements, or create new ones to address the challenges that are caused by an unprecedented number of wars and conflicts, especially in view of displacement for reasons that were not known previously, such as climate change, poverty and social marginalisation.”

Moving to the children’s issues and the UNICEF’s recent naming of Sharjah as the first ‘Child Friendly City’, Sheikha Jawaher said, “This title means so much to me and to all residents in Sharjah because it is the culmination of a fully integrated cultural and economic programme that succeeded thanks to the strong partnerships that were forged between so many separate entities across the emirate. It is a demonstration of the vision of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah and it has met the aspirations of all segments of the community, whether families or individuals.

“It is hard enough to find human friendly cities and harder still if that human is a child or a young adult. We have a long-term vision that takes into consideration their needs, hopes and ambitions which are vital as so many global communities face the disintegration of society and severed ties between individuals and their surroundings.”

Safeguarding children, following up on them and providing them with a prosperous environment that nurtures their personalities and creativity is our duty, she continued to say.

“Similarly, it is their duty towards their emirate and their nation to protect and sustain this achievement in the future.”

On Rubu’ Qarn for Creating Leaders and Innovators, which is probably a first-of-its-kind entity at a local and regional level seeking to build and develop young people over a period of 25 years, Sheikha Jawaher said that the initiative was conceived to prepare the younger generation to be leaders who can play a key role in the process of development and actively participate in shaping the country’s future.

“Rubu’ Qarn is an umbrella organisation for four Sharjah-based government entities, Sharjah Children, Sharjah Youth, Sajaya Young Ladies of Sharjah and Sharjah for Capability Development, which are all based on unified programmes and strategies. The foundation has recently announced a new strategic plan 2018-2021 which includes six key elements: Emiratisation; enhancing creativity and innovation; engagement; influence; sponsorship; and sustainability. The foundation is currently working on programmes and action plans which will be reviewed and updated to meet any challenges that may arise during its implementation.”

On why it is important to start the process of community empowerment at a family level and how can Arab families face today’s challenges without abandoning their values while at the same time protecting their unity and stability, Sheikha Jawaher, said that the family is a source of ethics and social control and parents are a child’s first teacher.

“If we look carefully at history through the ages, we find that the family as a social organisation has been the reason behind civilisation’s most important achievements and progress. The family plays a key role in developing fair and just relationships between people, which often advance to legal statutes to protect and serve the community. We believe that the family is the cornerstone of a civilised, stable and cohesive society where values are preserved and laws are developed and updated based on the growing needs of individuals.”

When values are abandoned in any society, it disintegrates, she added. “These values are not just theories in politics and economics, they represent relationships and the way in which you see other people and how you interact with them. Therefore, I believe a strong and cohesive familial system is essential to protect values, achievements and civilisations. By the same token, there can be no family or society without the values and principles that act as the common threads binding its social fabric.”

Preserved values are the basis of stability, along with culture, customs and traditions which evolve in societies in response to a desire for development and independence, Sheikha Jawaher noted.

With regards to H.H’s focus on many devastating diseases, especially cancer, Sheikha Jawaher said, “The world is spending hundreds of billions of Dollars every year as a result of the spread of diseases. Combatting infectious and incurable diseases is an international concern and not limited to one country. We must support poorer regions in developing their infrastructure, providing food and clean water, and boosting their capacity to deliver appropriate healthcare services. This includes raising awareness and promoting prevention and early detection of diseases among all social segments, especially in remote areas.

“We must also fund research on treatment for incurable diseases and provide them at affordable prices or free of charge in cases of extreme poverty. It is the poorest segments of society who suffer from diseases more than others. Many studies indicate that the volume of international research and development spending for treatment is still very limited. We hope that the world will have a greater focus and deploy more resources to fight incurable diseases and improve the laws and regulations governing the operation of research centres and pharmaceutical companies for noble causes rather than profiteering.”