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Girls & Women

The UAE’s Gender Equality Awards Were Missing One Important Thing: Women


Why Global Citizens Should Care
The Global Goals call for gender equality, and while the United Arab Emirates has taken some major steps toward promoting gender equality in the country, it has a long way to go before it can call itself an equal society. While social media users are poking fun at the lack of women at the UAE’s gender equality-focused event, women’s rights are no joking matter. You can take action here to empower women and girls everywhere.

The United Arab Emirates held its Gender Balance Index awards ceremony on Sunday — but, as social media users have been quick to point out, something was glaringly absent from among its winners: women.

The ceremony is now being criticized and ridiculed online for exclusively recognizing men at an event intended to promote gender equality.

Lt. Gen. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed al-Nahyan was the only individual man to receive an award — he was given the “best personality supporting gender balance” for his efforts to offer maternity leave in the military. However, male representatives also stepped up to receive the awards for “best government entity supporting gender balance,” “best federal authority supporting gender balance,” and “best gender balance initiative.”

Take Action: Demand Gender Equality: Stand in Unity With Women Worldwide

Though the award ceremony certainly didn’t reflect it, the UAE is considered the most gender equitable Gulf State, and regionally is second only to Israel, according to the World Economic Forum. The country has made concerted efforts to advance gender equality, particularly in its workforce.

“We are proud of the success of Emirati women and their role is central to shaping the future of the country,” the Dubai media office tweeted on Sunday. “Gender balance has become a pillar in our government institutions.”

Women have received Gender Balance Index awards in past years, but this year just one woman was “recognized,” though not awarded, the Dubai media office said in a press release. The sole female recognized for her efforts to advance gender equality on Sunday was Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, head of the UAE’s Gender Balance Council and the deputy prime minister’s wife.

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As human rights activists have pointed out and the gender composition of the Gender Balance Index awardees clearly shows, there is much work to be done to establish gender equality in the country.

Discrimination on the basis of sex or gender is still not legally considered discrimination and women still need a man’s permission to be married, Human Rights Watch reports. And various forms of domestic violence have yet to be criminalized and marital rape remains legal in the UAE.