H.E. Shamsa Saleh, CEO of Dubai Women Establishment and Secretary-General of the UAE Gender Balance Council discusses the UAE’s progress in gender balance and going beyond women’s empowerment
This month we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the UAE, what does this occasion mean to you?
This occasion is not only about celebrating the 50th anniversary of our beloved nation, but also celebrating the gift that this land and the wise leadership has given to its people. Back in 1971, we only had five female graduates. As I was growing up in Dubai, things were changing rapidly. Today, we have succeeded in closing the gender gap and we are the first nation worldwide in the female literacy rate. Pioneering this agenda globally is something we never thought of, but always aspired to, and today we reap the benefits of this progress. Our government, throughout the decades, worked tirelessly to engage women in the country’s economic development and fuel its growth through women. I don’t only speak for myself, but for all Emirati women – we are now enablers, not the enabled.
What is a message that you would send to your country on this occasion?
I would like to congratulate every member of our society – women, men, children and the elderly – they have all contributed to making our country one of the best in the world to live in. Loving our country is what I and many others were raised on, and is something that I teach my children. The UAE has given us everything and continues to surpass not just our expectations, but that of the international community as well.
This occasion is an opportunity to celebrate our success and look forward to the vision of the next 50 years. Every government entity and organisation is part of this vision and we look forward to the challenge of elevating our nation’s status even further. We are competing globally across competitive indexes in various fields, and we have proved to the world our success with tangible numbers. I will give my all to the UAE, and I know that all of my fellow Emiratis will do just the same.
What is your fondest memory of the UAE from your childhood?
I have a lot of fond memories from my childhood! As you would expect, I experienced the old and new of Dubai and the UAE. I saw new buildings rise. I remember a time when Sheikh Zayed road was not paved! I still remember the National Day celebrations in our neighbourhood, they were so simple back then. In school, I always used to participate by wearing traditional dress, performing the Emirati dance for my classmates, and waving the flag proudly all day long!
Fast forward to today, we can see the tallest building in the world from anywhere in Dubai. When it comes to infrastructure, I’m proud to say that we have one of the best in the world.
And it doesn’t stop there, we have reached new horizons across fields such as space with our mission to Mars. I can truly thank the wise leadership for the fast progress between the 70s and now. It has only been 50 years but we’re competing globally and leading the race regionally.
How will you be celebrating the 50th anniversary?
I will be celebrating with my family as well as being part of celebrations happening across the city. This year is a special year for all the UAE and we look forward to it. We will be celebrating our achievements and successes, including our current high ranking in global competitive indexes. We will be celebrating the happiness of our nation, a place where people from over 200 countries live in peace and harmony as well as looking to the future, and the next 50 years in a new chapter for the UAE.
In a way, we have already started celebrating the anniversary with the hosting of Expo 2020 Dubai, one of the main accomplishments that happened during the UAE’s Golden Jubilee. We hope that the UAE will remain a place where the world can get together to celebrate, discuss and create a bright future for our world.
What do you think the UAE has that no other country possesses?
Our biggest possession is great visionary leadership. Their greatest assets are their clear direction, transparency and the hunger for the UAE to be a leader across fields. This ambition is highly appreciated by the people of the UAE, who aspire to follow in their path.
They have set for us standards that we always strive for. This is what leading by example really means, and we’re grateful for it. The various strategies across government entities are all linked to their overall vision for the UAE, and when we work on agendas related to women and gender equality, we know that it will add value to that wider nationwide vision.
Where would you like to see the UAE in another 50 years?
I am a result-oriented person and always have been. I can see our country surpass expectations and lead global competitive rankings, not only across the region but the globe.
We will expand our horizons, become pioneers in modern fields and work together with nations to create a better future for humanity.
Tell us about what you are currently working on and what is in the pipeline for the coming year?
There is always something new in the pipeline and an objective that we work towards. We are now working on the new gender balance strategy in the UAE, after going the extra mile in closing the gap by raising awareness, introducing legislation and overcoming challenges. Now, we are in a position to introduce a new innovative approach to gender equality and export best practices to the world. This will be achieved through our new gender balance strategy. We also have partnerships lined up with global organisations in the aim to accelerate women’s portfolio in the UAE.
What is a quote or motto from the UAE’s leaders that inspires you the most?
There are many quotes and mottos that I live by from our leaders. The one that inspires me the most is: “Never settle for anything less than first place” by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Being number one, competing globally and having a result-oriented mindset like our leaders is very important. This is my motto in life.