UAE gender equality awards feature all male winners

An awards initiative in the United Arab Emirates designed to promote gender equality has been criticised on social media, after it emerged that all of the winners were men.

Categories in the UAE’s Gender Balance Index awards included “Best Gender Balance Initiative”, “Best Government Entity supporting Gender Balance” and “Best Federal Authority supporting Gender Balance”. The awards were presented to factions of the UAE government such as the Finance Ministry and Ministry of Human Resources, which were all represented by men.

The deputy prime minister and minister of the interior Lt Gen Sheikh Saif bin Zayed al-Nahyan was named as the “Best Personality supporting Gender Balance” for his work in launching maternity leave in the UAE military.

Photographs of the ceremony, which show the vice president of the UAE and leader of Dubai Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum presenting awards to the male winners, sparked a large response on social media, with many people asking if the ceremony was a joke.


The UAE is actually the highest ranking Gulf country for gender equality. According to a United Nations Development Programme study, in 2015, 135,000 Emirati women participated in the labour market, compared with just 1,000 in 1975. It was also recorded that 43 per cent of Emirati women hold bachelor’s degrees, compared with 23 per cent of men.

In an official tweet, the Dubai Media Offices said: "We are proud of the success of Emirati women and their role is central to shaping the future of the country. Gender balance has become a pillar in our governmental institutions."

However, the UAE has been criticised for its inequality when it comes to the social and cultural status of women. For example, UAE law permits domestic violence against women, provided that the assault does not exceed the limits set out by Islamic law. Giving birth outside of wedlock is illegal in the UAE, and women can only apply for a divorce under certain circumstances, such as if her husband is not paying adequate maintenance.

Featured image: Dubai Media Offices via Twitter

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