Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, UAE’s permanent representative to the UN, talks about women’s equality and empowerment.
Women have been critical in the UAE’s fight against the pandemic, and the UAE’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, says it is time women constitute a more representative figure in positions of power.
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“Female leaders have been praised for their roles in response to Covid-19, but remain underrepresented in decision-making,” says Ambassador Nusseibeh.
“If women are 50 per cent of the world’s population, shouldn’t they be 50 per cent of the people in the negotiating room?” asked the young envoy, who heads the UAE’s role on the world stage.
There are two important factors that could contribute to securing seats for women at the negotiating table, says Nusseibeh: “First [we need to] create inclusive spaces for women at negotiations, which includes prioritising increased access to digital technologies, something that requires both funding and monitoring.
“We also need UN member states and UN entities to persistently advocate for the guaranteed meaningful and equal participation of women.”
The impacts of crises are never gender-neutral, and Covid19 is no exception. This year’s International Women’s Day is celebrating the crucial role played by women in the ongoing recovery from Covid-19.
Ambassador Nusseibeh’s message this year is simple: “There is nothing women and girls cannot do. Even today there are many people who are content to put up the barrier and define women by the very stereotypes we are breaking. But ignore them and continue to knock on those doors until they open.”
The envoy has been using her voice to promote women’s inclusion throughout her career at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As UN Ambassador, she works tirelessly to integrate a gender angle into her work, “because many barriers to women remain across society, and because it also happens to be smart foreign policy.”
Practising what she preaches, the UN envoy, who has been heading the Mission for nearly eight years now, leads a staff of 10 diplomats, seven of whom are women. She has been heavily involved in international women’s empowerment initiatives, including serving as President of the UN Women Executive Board in 2017; Vice-President of the General Assembly for the 72nd session; and most recently, as Co-Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council Reform for three sessions of the UN General Assembly from 2017 to 2020.
Ambassador Nusseibeh looks forward to the UAE’s term on the Security Council in 2022-2023, where a key priority will be to advance women’s equal and meaningful participation within the council and beyond, a core value for the UAE.
“We need to foster dialogue to better understand how we as an international community can work together to support women on the ground and ensure their voices are heard. We need to support research [in order to better] inform our decisions in international fora such as the UN.”
Women’s Equailty, a National Goal
The journey towards women’s equality and empowerment should be a national, regional and global priority according to the UN Envoy.
“When our nation was being formed nearly 50 years ago, (late UAE founder) Sheikh Zayed and Sheikha Fatima both recognised that women should have access to the same opportunities as men for the new country to thrive and prosper in the long term,” she says.
“Women’s empowerment and gender equality are core pillars of the UAE domestic and foreign policies,” adds Nusseibeh. “We focus on gender equality, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because there is clear evidence that lifting up women lifts up entire societies.”
Ambassador Nusseibeh says equal education is a key element when advancing gender equality, something that can only be reached “when women and girls have opportunities that are the equal of their male counterparts”.
Emirati women have become global models for gender equality, says the UN Envoy who cites recent advances like the Law on Equal Wages and Salaries for Men and Women, and the law for paternal leave that was added to the existing parental law.
“Today the literacy rate of women in the UAE is 95.8 per cent, 77 per cent of Emirati women enrol in higher education after secondary school, and women make up 70 per cent of all university graduates in the UAE,” she informs.
Furthermore, 50 per cent of graduates with Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics degrees in the UAE are women, and through Dubai Care and collaborations with international organisations like UNICEF, the UAE is working to close the global gender gap in access to quality education.
Ambassador Nusseibeh is also a mother of two boys and believes that the most important lesson taught from a young age is that there is nothing that women cannot do.
“Achieving gender equality requires the partnership of our male counterparts, our ‘He for She’ champions, because gender equality is about women and men enjoying equal access to opportunities. But we also recognize more work remains for us all.”