Dubai School of Government Gender and Public Policy Research Seminar Marie Lillo Political Participation of Women in the UAE 20% 20/04/2008
Background to Research
Methodology : as part of a Master‘s thesis, the first ever-held elections in the UAE were analyzed through the study of secondary literature, interviews and an anonymous survey
Backbone of the thesis : the paper aimed at answering three main questions:
Why were these elections held?
Why has the government chosen such approach to the reform?
Are there any obstacles to the already announced future steps of this reform?
The characteristics of the role and life of women in the UAE reflect the nature of the Emirati society: a balance between modernity and tradition
Currently, the limitations to the role of women in the public sphere do not allow for the tap of political participation to be “fully flowing”
It remains to be seen to which extent these limitations will persist
Open questions : In which direction is the process of widening political participation going in the UAE?
The first ever-held elections in the UAE were analyzed through the study of secondary literature, interviews and an anonymous survey Interviews
8 interviews (telephone and personal interviews)
Gender expert in the UAE
One FNC member
Analysis of the existing literature in the fields of:
Women in the Gulf
Political systems in the Gulf
History of the UAE
Review of Local newspapers
Use of Gulf Research Center database
Development of questionnaire analyzing the general perception of the Emirati society to the elections
Sent through personal network mainly based in Abu Dhabi
Sent to UAE nationals only
Received 22 responses
It remains to be seen whether the tap of political participation will ever be fully flowing Background of the Thesis The Emirati leadership has shown a great will to modernise “ Reform on tap” Focus of this discussion Political participation
The tap of political participation was slowly opened:
The fully flowing tap could be made difficult:
Issues of citizenship
Gender issues in the UAE
Women in the UAE show a strong interest in the elections and have clear opinions and a desire to get involved in politics, which could push further the opening of the tap “ People should be able to hold high positions based on how much information they hold and not who they know” “ We should have freedom of expression, speech and media” “ I am not clear about the members experience, education, background and general awareness and don’t trust that they should have more authority ” “ The FNC should, bring about legislative and government change” Responses from Interviews Women as Active Agents in Society 77% Survey results Men Women 23% “ The process was non-transparent and unequal ” Survey respondents “ People should be in power because of their capabilities not because of who they know” 23 Key findings
Women show a strong interest in the political development in the UAE:
More clarity and transparency in the election process
Holding political positions due to merit rather than connections
Have the right to vote (59% of respondents)
The respondents have very clear idea about how they would like to be represented and which issues they would like to politicians to tackle
However cultural barriers and the rentier state could be obstacles to having a fully open tap to political participation Limitations to the Role of Women in the Public Sphere Cultural Barriers Limitations to the participation of women in the public sphere Rentier State
Conflict between new and traditional gender roles
Importance of family structures
Clearer roles for women in the private sphere
Still limited presence of women in the public arena, especially at decision making level, i.e. no women in the Supreme Council
95% of women who complete high school join university but only 27% of these join the labor market after graduation
Women did not vote for women (1189 female members of the EC only 1 woman elected)
Rentier state discourages women to participate actively:
Extremely generous welfare state providing its citizens with education, healthcare, facilitated access to housing,
Both men and women are content and do not seek political change or participation
Paradoxically the modern economy based on oil profits has slightly reinforced cultural barriers for women
46 Source: Ministry of Information:2006
Taking into consideration the role of women, it will be interesting to analyze how the journey of political participation continues for the UAE Political discontent Women’s political behavior
Will the evolution of the nature of the rentier state bring about changes in the level of and demand for political participation in the UAE?
How far can these changes in demand for political participation be conducted by the government?
Are the existing means of communication with the government sufficient for the citizens to voice their discontent?
How do Emirati women perceive their role in the political future of the country?
Why did women not vote for female candidates?
What are the key factors that would make the women seek for more or less participation?