GENEVA, 23rd March, 2016 (WAM) – Ambassador Obaid Salem Al Zaabi, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Geneva, has participated in a panel discussion organised by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue in co-operation with UNESCO office in Geneva on “Advancing the status of women in the Arab World.”

The discussion was held on the sidelines of the 31st session of Human Rights Council currently meeting in Geneva.

In a statement, Al Zaabi expressed his thanks and appreciation to the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue on organising this important event, and the UNESCO for sponsoring the discussion.

He referred to the achievements of the UAE in the area of women’s empowerment in which the country is ranked among the leading countries on gender equality in the Arab world, according to the report on the gender gap in 2014, released by the World Economic Forum. It stated that Emirati women and men are equal partners in society, citing the growing role of Emirati women in business and public services.

Ambassador Al Zaabi also stressed, “Gender equality is of paramount importance to the UAE, where the constitution guarantees and strengthens rights of women to work. He said that under the constitution, women enjoy the same legal status and the same rights as men in obtaining education, the right to work and the right to inherit property like men.

He reiterated that Emirati women have the same rights of access to work and enjoy all the healthcare facilities and family welfare opportunities.

Al Zaabi explained that in the field of education, the literacy rate is about 95 per cent for both males and females, but noted that the percentage of girls who enroll in higher education institutions in the UAE amounts to 95 percent compared to 80 percent for boys.

He referred to the establishment of the UAE Gender Balance Council in 2015, which reflects the vision of the UAE’s wise leadership that spares no effort to create a supportive environment for women to enable them to carry out their important role on an equal footing with men.

Ambassador Al Zaabi said, “Women empowerment in the UAE is not just a slogan but a reality, as women hold eight ministerial posts in the current government, including the Ministers of Happiness, Tolerance and Youth who is under 22. There are nine women members in the Federal National Council (FNC), constituting about a quarter of the members of the FNC.”

In November 2015, he continued, Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi became the Speaker of the FNC to become the first woman in the Arab world to hold this position. In October 2008, the first female judge was appointed in the UAE, while there are currently four women as public prosecutors.

He added that the proportion of representation of women in the diplomatic corps is 20 per cent, as many of the women ambassadors were appointed to represent the country at the United Nations, Spain, Montenegro, and as Consul General in Milan, Italy. At the international level, the UAE announced in 2014, the hosting of the co-ordinating office of the United Nations Women with the support of H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union (GWU), Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation (FDF) and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood.

Al Zaabi noted that this reflects the UAE’s commitment to strengthening the work of the international body in promoting women globally and to expand their presence. The UAE also appointed a high-level adviser to work in the headquarters of the United Nations in New York in order to support the UN’s efforts on issues related to women.

With regard to international conventions with regard to women, Ambassador Zaabi pointed out that the UAE has in 2004 become a signatory to the UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which regularly hosts regional and international conferences dealing with women’s issues.

At the conclusion of his statement, Ambassador Zaabi thanked the wise leadership for boosting the empowerment of Emirati women to contribute to overall comprehensive development.

WAM/Majok