Women and politics used in one sentence still cause a negative reaction in many people since the idea that a woman’s responsibility is home is rooted deeply. However, it should be noted that in several countries today, there is a new trend – more and more women are participating in political life in both local and global terms. In some countries, women are presidents and heads of government, for example, in Latvia or Argentina (Miles, 2016). As practice shows, for women, the issues of ecology, child protection, health care, social protection of the population, etc. come to the forefront (Samier, 2015).
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This paper focuses on exploring the political underrepresentation of women in the politics of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Caused by a patriarchal system, male dominance, and Muslim values, the underrepresentation of the UAE women in politics may be improved by the promotion of awareness, gender equality, and prevention of violence against them. This paper will discuss reasons that caused the identified problem and opportunities that were already implemented as well as those that may enhance the situation in the future.
Male control and support for the patriarchal political system are the causes of the specified problem, which were created over many centuries. As stated by Auster and Prasad (2016), dominant organizational ideologies are still preventing women from occupying top positions in politics (see Graph 1). This phenomenon is observed in the example of the UAE, where women are considered only in terms of family and home opportunities (Auster & Prasad, 2016).
The election procedure and standards for evaluating politicians were developed during the times of the domination of masculine qualities necessary for the constant conduct of fierce, internal conflicts, and external wars (Yaghi & Antwi‐Boateng, 2015). Meanwhile, the participation of women deputies in the work of parliaments and other representative bodies is extremely important not only for women themselves but society as a whole. As it is specified by Soffan (2016), the fact is that the current political system is also based on the ideas of winners and losers as well as competitions and confrontations rather than a systematic discussion and search for compromises.
As a result, after elections and appointments, key positions were not held by the most talented and skilled persons, who could primarily care about the welfare of their citizens, according to the assumptions of Mahdavi (2013). Not to mention the fact that some politicians were sure of the imperfection of the biological nature of women (Zahlan, 2016). In their turn, women did not have enough confidence and power to make the system change.
Therefore, they did not participate in the adoption of key decisions, determine a vector of development of the state, and their opinion was not taken into account as appropriate (Williams, Wallis, & Williams, 2013). Women think more about the standard of living of people, including education, health, social security, living conditions, family, and culture. They are more altruistic and sincere in their actions, being benevolent, loving, and confident in the future. It is these directions and qualities that are necessary to increase human capital as the main alternative to the current political and economic models.
The very history of the UAE was based on the canons of Sharia that is another reason for the identified problem. Adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was ratified only by nine of the 20 Arab states (Hodgson, 2014). Moreover, even recognizing it, some of the countries stipulated the non-mandatory implementation of certain items because of Sharia.
Historically, the main requirement was the creation of the state and life according to the Koran, an inseparable from a solution to all social problems, including women’s issues. Kemp (2013) argues that women in the Arab world compose only 28 percent of the workforce, which makes them financially dependent on men. First of all, males persuaded the widest layers of believers, including women, that their social problems could be solved only within the Muslim state, which, guided by the Koran and Shariah, is the only one capable of building a society of social justice and universal prosperity (Kemp, 2013). As proof, the wide charity of various funds was used to show their attention to the social problems of women, health, and so on. Current employment rates among women in the UAE remain relatively low as can be observed in Graph 2.
In an attempt to eliminate gender inequality in politics, Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union, Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation, and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, noted the celebration of the National Women’s Day of the UAE. Kemp, Madsen, and El-Saidi (2013) suggest that this reflects socio-political maturity and the belief in wise leadership and the work on the sustainable development of the country.
All this is part of the National Strategy for Emirates Women Empowerment, which was announced in 2015 by Sheikha Fatima. The strategy provides a framework for government structures, the private sector, and civil society organizations to transform the UAE into one of the most advanced countries in terms of women’s rights and opportunities (Kemp, Madsen, & Davis, 2015). The nine-month program will assist emirate women in developing leadership skills through complex tasks and masterclasses and creating a network of professional contacts in the organizations.
It should also be stressed that based on the results of the training, the participants will pass a professional certification, the results of which will be recognized by the Institute of Leadership and Management. As stated in the study conducted by Kemp et al. (2015), the program meets the national policy objectives of the UAE in achieving gender balance of the working population and the country’s desire to be among the 25 most advanced countries in terms of gender equality. McLaughlin et al. (2017) assume that societal biases do not allow modern women to held power positions. In particular, the authors emphasize that a wider perspective on promoting diversity rather than mere gender equality may help to resolve this problem.
To conclude, it is essential to emphasize that further prospects for the growth of the role of women in political decision-making in the UAE will depend to a large extent on the development of the women’s movement along with the development of a common and purposeful line for women’s associations. Mervis, Eve, Florence, and Caroline (2013) claim that struck by the women’s movement in developed countries, the idea of equal rights and opportunities for women and men is embodied in the concept of equality that is based on the postulate that men and women have equal civic virtue.
Such parity participation contributes to the realization of the idea of equal rights and equal opportunities, and secondly to the development of democracy itself. At the same time, the achievement of equal opportunities for women and men implies the transformation of public consciousness and the creation of gender culture, where the masculine values of strength, rationalism, and freedom will be balanced by the feminine values of care, empathy, and responsibility. Thus, even though historically, the UAE women did not participate in the politics of the country, they tend to become more politically active and help the corresponding positions led by female leaders and specific programs.
Auster, E. R., & Prasad, A. (2016). Why do women still not make it to the top? Dominant organizational ideologies and biases by promotion committees limit opportunities to destination positions. Sex Roles, 75(5-6), 177-196.
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