Dr Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi was the first woman in the United Arab Emirates Parliament and the first female deputy speaker of the Federal National Council. She made history in 2013 when she chaired a House session, an occasion she described as a great honour. This is an edited version of an iKNOW politics interview conducted in November 2013.
“When our country was founded in 1971 we faced some challenges regarding cultural and traditional issues, and the need to change the perception that women could not be in political positions of leadership.
“But with time and great support from our leadership, and the awareness of the people, we have managed to have four ministers and three ambassadors, we represent 66% of the federal workforce, and many women are in higher education. The literacy rate among us is 98%.
“So we have overcome most of the challenges we face, but still need to change some legislation.
“My parliamentary colleagues and I work hard to promote not only women’s issues but issues affecting society as a whole, because it is an integral part of the development of the country and of the needs of the people.
“We chair committees, lead discussions, organise forums, represent our country at an international level and attend conferences. We even lead delegations made up of male parliamentarians, which reflects the role of Emirati women now—they are treated equally and they are considered to be highly efficient.
“The support we have from our leadership for the empowerment of people is phenomenal. Therefore, many of us discuss many different issues in parliament. We fight to try to convince the different ministers of our views and of what services should really be developed.
“We see many results from this collaborative work done with women, whether it is legislation regarding education, health or any other social issue.
“We are the first country in the Arab world in terms of closing the gender gap. We have broken the glass ceiling in many aspects—our only limit is the sky. We have great hope that we will be able to carry the aspirations of the people of the UAE, to bring out the best in them.
“For me, becoming the first-ever women in parliament did not reshape my future at that time, but hopefully it will reshape the future for my daughter. We can all together set a good example for the next generations so that they can be better than us in the future.”