Sheikh Zayed’s legacy: the new UAE's generation in the making
Between 18-20 of November I had a lucky chance to visit the UAE to attend two events: the worldwide famous international forum “Interfaith Alliance For Safer Communities” dedicated this time mostly to the issue of "Child Dignity in the Digital World” and the unique Emirati event getting also internationally famous - the launch of the Fatima bint Mubarak Motherhood & Childhood Award, signifying the profound interest of the UAE in promoting excellence and creativity in the fields of motherhood and childhood.
Let’s start with the event underpinning the entire moral building (foundation) of the today’s United Arab Emirates. Worthy to note, the current year 2018 has been declared to be The Year of Zayed, the founder of the UAE as we see it being prosperous nation - the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (born in 1918). Among the noble values instilled to the Emiratis by the Founding Father was the careful vision of the upcoming generation. That is rather complex problem – starting from the focusing on the motherhood and childhood as basic issues, going up to the modern education and creation of the deserving work opportunites. The chain of objectives to achieve rests on the strong ground of moral values. It’s quite clear that to bring up a morally decent citizen is a much more difficult task than to construct an infrastructure of education establishments (schools, colleges, universities).
Let’s cite Shaikh Zayed himself in this regard: “Wealth is not money. Wealth lies in men. This is where true power lies, the power that we value. They are the shield behind which we seek protection. This is what has convinced us to direct all our resources to building the individual, and to using the wealth with which God has provided us in service of the nation, so that it may grow and prosper.”
To remember His addressing the graduation ceremony in 1982 of the first class of students from the Emirates University: “The building of mankind is difficult and hard. It represents, however, the real wealth of the country. This is not found in material wealth. It is made up of men, of children, and of future generations. It is this which constitutes the real treasure.”
The problem with the respect of the motherhood, however, is strongly related to the extended role of woman in the gradually modernized society. That is a common problem for every country across the world. The archaic vision and perception of women strongly tied to home and childcare was to hurdle the path to the UAE future. What was required and what was wisely found as solution by the innovative Sheikh Zayed was the combination of traditional and progressive views with this regard. And here transpired the outstanding role of Her Highness Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, the prominent wife of the Sheikh Zayed.
Her Highness Sheikha Fatimah is rightly considered a pioneer in promoting women’s development in her country. On November 8, 1973, she established the Abu Dhabi Women’s Development Association. At that time it was proved to be not only the first women’s organization of its kind in the UAE, but also all across the Arab part of the region. Further on Sheikha Fatimah sponsored the establishment of several other women’s associations in all the emirates of the Union. On August 27, 1975 her outstanding efforts for women’s development culminated in the establishment of the General Women’s Union. In 2001 Sheikha Fatima contributed to the formation of Supreme Council for Maternity and Childhood in 2001, of which she is presently the Chairperson.
As we can see, the Sheikha Fatimah’s vision was primarily motivated by the idea of involving women into the process of building new social foundation of the national statehood in the making. That signified a visionary breakthrough in the Arab Gulf. Now it is largely achieved and now the question seems to be posed otherwise – how to ensure the partial mobility for women to be able to combine the motherhood with their enlarging social commitments? How to resolve the visible contradiction between the women’s devotion to motherhood and their social role?
Sheikha Fatimah succeeded in finding solution: on 6 October 2004 the UAE ratified the Convention for Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); August, 15, 2015 saw the first celebration of Emirati women's day (the date marking the anniversary of the creation of the UAE’s General Women’s Union in 1975). The achivements of the Emirati women are impressing – they have proven themselves in various positions, including as the Speaker of the Federal National Council (FNC), as ministers in the federal government, where nine female ministers make up 27 per cent of the ministerial assembly. They also have a presence in the diplomatic corps, armed forces, in national service, police and security. Their presence in space sciences, technology, engineering and medicine is a key factor in the development of the country.
But how to combine those achievements with the motherhood? Let’s cite Sheikha Fatima: “The ultimate role of a mother is childcare and participation in the development of the country through her involvement in public roles”. She goes on encouraging both – childcare of a mother with her social position. It’s made through establishing special awards - for the best nursery in an office, initiative to support children with special needs et ctr. Scientific research has also been sponsored and some of the winners announced by Sheikha Fatima during the ceremony which took place at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi on November 20.
The group of the invitees (included myself) met with Reem Abdullah Al Falasi, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood. Talking to us, she reaffirmed Sheikha Fatima bin Mubarak's beliefs that the UAE's progress and development across all societal levels is marked by its leading position on local, regional, and global happiness indices. These results, she added, confirm that the UAE is capable of being a friend to all, in general, and to women, children, and adolescents in particular.
The SCMC Secretary-General went on to say that with all these remarkable developments, Sheikha Fatima has directed for the development of a national strategy that complements the UAE leadership's efforts to encourage empowerment of women, children and young adults in building a cohesive society across cultural, environmental and economic sectors.
The strategy will work to include the rights of mothers, children and young individuals as a key component of development trends, goals, policies, initiatives and projects. It will ensure provisions for support and health care opportunities for women and children, she explained, adding that the strategy aims to focus on children in broader and more comprehensive age groups, while adopting child-friendly hospital initiatives by the World Health Organisation, as well as the UNICEF Child Friendly Cities and Communities Initiative
HH Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, said during a ceremony in the Emirates Palace as follows: “I am pleased to announce with pride that the Fatima Bint Mubarak Prize for Motherhood and Childhood will be transformed in the coming years into an international prize that allows broad participation of children's organizations around the world. I am convinced that the UAE has taken this initiative pioneers. As an important reference and incubator of international best practices in the area of motherhood and youth. On this occasion, two years after the launch of the prize, I say from the bottom of my heart to all government and private participants, individuals, mothers and all my children. You are all winners of this prize and you are all involved in the progress and progress of our dear country”.