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UAE’s commitment to women’s empowerment has had an impact beyond the country’s borders

UAE’s commitment to women’s empowerment has had an impact beyond the country’s borders
  • 100% of UAE’s bilateral and multilateral foreign aid targets gender equality, says Her Excellency Hessa Buhumaid, UAE Minister of Community Development

  • The MENA region still has one of the biggest wage gaps of about 40%, says Caren Grown, Senior Director for Gender, World Bank Group

  • “Don’t be complacent, gender equality is a never ending challenge,” says Pedro Conceição, Director, Human Development Report Office, UNDP

Dubai, UAE; 16 February 2020: UAE’s commitment to empowerment of women and girls is having an impact beyond the borders of the country, Her Excellency Hessa Buhumaid, UAE Minister of Community Development, said today at the Global Women’s Forum Dubai 2020. 

“The UAE’s aid to foreign countries was launched in 2017, with a basic focus on women who represent the strong basis for any sustainable development. Recently, the UAE launched the concept of “100% Women Policy “, which aims to ensure that 100% of bilateral and multilateral foreign aid targets gender equality and at the same time achieves the goals of influential and real empowerment of women and girls by 2021.”

Her Excellency was speaking at a Plenary Panel discussion titled Global Gender Balance: Between Responsibility and Responsiveness at GWFD 2020, which began in Dubai today. The Plenary Panel also featured Pedro Conceição, Director, Human Development Report Office, UNDP; and Caren Grown, Senior Director for Gender, World Bank Group, in discussion with Moderator Dan Murphy, Correspondent, CNBC.

GWFD 2020, which is taking place at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai, UAE, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and Ruler of Dubai, will conclude on 17 February. 

HE Hessa Buhumaid further said: “In the UAE, we believe that women and men are equal partners in society. This fundamental belief supported our ranking as a leading country in gender equality in the region.  According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report for 2018, the UAE was one of the region’s best-performing countries, having closed 64% of their overall gender gap. The UAE also saw a reduction of the gap with regard to legislators, senior officials and managers, and healthy life expectancy.”

“Since the formation of the UAE, our leaders focused on empowering women and reaching gender balance. Women have been working alongside men to continue the path of development and progress as planned by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan,” she noted.  

Gender Balance, she said, is essentially linked to sustainable development. The overall objective of gender equality is a society in which women and men enjoy the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all spheres of life.

Caren Grown, Senior Director for Gender, World Bank Group noted that according to a World Bank report, the top performers in terms of changing, reforming and getting rid of discriminatory laws have been countries in the MENA region. However, there are many gaps in the region that need to be addressed. “In the MENA region, women’s labour force participation was 21% in 2018 compared to men’s 74 percent. The MENA region still has one of the biggest wage gaps of about 40%. The access to finance gap is very large. If we can actually reduce these gaps, economies can benefit.”

Making a case for the positive economic impact of having more women in decision making roles in businesses, she said: “When we looked across emerging markets, we found that those firms that have gender balance in their senior investment officers have 10-20% higher return on investment than firms that have only males or only females. This argues for greater balance, because it brings a greater diversity of perspectives, networks and experiences.”

Pedro Conceição, Director, Human Development Report Office, UNDP, argued that closing the wage gap will significantly expand the size of the economy. He also noted that women bring much more then monetary growth to the workplace. “Women bring a lot to the table – they bring creativity and new perspectives. Companies who had women on boards yielded the highest revenue and banking systems were more stable,” he said. 

He noted that even in countries that had achieved high levels of gender balance, social attitudes pointed to gender equality bias even among women. Talking about the UNDP Human Development Report, he said: “In an opinion poll survey, we sought answers to questions such as ‘do you think men made for better political leaders than women’ and ‘do you think that men made better executives than women’. If the answer to this is yes, we say this is reflecting a bias. If you look at recent data in the period between 2010 and 2014, and this was really shocking to us, we saw an increase in social norms that reflect bias against gender equality. Some of the pushback was happening in countries which had substantial achievements in gender equality.  As women get to more powerful positions, the pushback gets more intense,” he noted.

“Don’t be complacent, gender equality is a never ending challenge,” he told the audience.

Global Women’s Forum Dubai 2020 is organised by Dubai Women Establishment, which is led by Her Highness Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of the UAE Gender Balance Council and wife of HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.Building on its theme, ‘The Power of Influence’, Global Women’s Forum Dubai 2020 will highlight how effective policies and partnerships in four key areas – Government, Economy, Society, and the Future – can further women’s positive impact for a better future.

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