The UAE Women's Federation

The UAE Women's Federation Last updated on Monday 26th April 2010

Established in 1975 under the leadership of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the wife of the President, the purpose of the UAE Women's Federation was -- and is -- to bring together under one umbrella all the women's societies in the country. The aim is to create opportunities for women so that they may achieve their fullest potential.

The Federation is made up of six women's groups that are found in all areas of the country. There are now 31 branches of the six groups, many operating in remote areas of the country. The individual societies have their own range of activities. Three of them publish magazines and one runs the only women's chess club, which represents the UAE in Arab and international competition.

Funded by the government, the Federation has its own charter and is empowered to represent the women of the UAE in discussions with Ministries and other government departments and institutions. It also has the responsibility of suggesting new laws or amending existing legislation. The Federation conducts its own research into matters of interest to women and is in touch with government departments to obtain needed statistics and information.

One area of particular concern to the Federation has only come about over the last twenty years. It is the phenomenon of local UAE women remaining unmarried.

Research has revealed a number of problems and the Federation has been quick to suggest possible solutions. At one time, the educational levels of men and women were different and men were often reluctant to marry women of a lower educational level. This has not been the case for several years since present-day men and women have enjoyed all the benefits of modern education and training that the government could supply. Indeed, at present, women outstrip men in education and so in future the problem may appear in reverse.

Because of the rapid economic growth of the country, the expense of large dowries and elaborate wedding celebrations prevented many people from marrying. This led in part to young men's seeking wives from abroad, Arab or non-Arab. And of course Emirati girls remain unmarried. A second problem arose when children were born to couples when the mother was a foreigner and perhaps not well-integrated into the fabric of UAE life and society.

As a partial solution to these problems, in 1994 the President of the UAE set up a special fund called the Marriage Fund. The fund provides financial assistance up to US$19,000 to young UAE men who wish to marry but lack the means to do so.

Coupled with this, the government also launched a campaign encouraging fathers to request lower dowries for their daughters. Special "wedding halls" have also been built where celebrations can be held without incurring the expenses common to large hotels. The most immediate result has been a fall in the number of unmarried UAE women.

The Women's Federation is also campaigning against the practice of older male citizens taking young wives, usually second ones, from abroad. These women are often relatively uneducated and, it is felt, have little to contribute to UAE society other than a disruptive influence.

Yet another by-product of the oil boom has been the increasing dependence on foreign housemaids and nannies for rearing the children of both UAE citizens and expatriates. This has been shown to have a damaging effect upon the cohesiveness of society and is being resisted. The Women's Federation has launched a public campaign to warn parents of the dangers of allowing children to be brought up exclusively or largely by women from a different culture.

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