Permanent committee for human rights logo
Permanent committee for human rights logo




Gender equality and women’s empowerment are deeply rooted in Emirati culture and society. Long before the seven emirates united to form the UAE, women held fundamental positions in public life, and have always been significant contributors in social and economic spheres. 

Historically, women were  responsible for managing community affairs, while men spent long periods away on trading, fishing and diving trips as a means of making a living. 

The Constitution of the UAE guarantees equal rights for men and women, in terms of legal status, property rights, access to education, health, the right to practice all professions, and the right to inherit property. The Constitution also protects women from domestic violence in all its forms, whether physical, verbal, psychological, sexual or financial, as supported by law.

Such an approach was anchored in the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE's Founding Father, who heavily encouraged women’s empowerment and ensured that women were seen and treated as equal partners in the building of the nation.  


Women in the UAE today enjoy the same opportunities as men to contribute to the country’s future, serving as government ministers, business leaders, scientists, astronauts, judges, lawyers and doctors.

Significant social, economic, academic and political achievements have contributed to the improvement of gender equality and women-empowerment standards in the UAE for decades.

In the field of political participation, Her Excellency Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi was the first woman in the Arab world to be elected as speaker of the Federal National Council in 2015, the equivalent of parliament in the UAE. Women hold 50% of the council’s seats, one of the highest percentages globally.

By 2022, the UAE Cabinet included nine female ministers out of 33, comprising 27.3% of ministerial roles, headlining national portfolios of international cooperation, climate change and environment, happiness, youth, and food and water security. The participation of women in the UAE Cabinet is among the highest in the world proportionally to its population.

Appointed as the UAE Minister of Community Development and the COP28 Youth Climate Champion in 2023, Her Excellency Shamma bint Sohail Faris Al Mazrui is the UAE’s youngest minister to join the Cabinet, and was the youngest minister globally when she took office in early 2016 at the age of 22 as the Minister of State for Youth Affairs.

Another key position led by a woman in a ministerial capacity is Her Excellency Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, who led the Emirates Mars Mission, inspiring a generation of young girls to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.

Across government institutions in the UAE, women make up 66% per cent of the public sector workforce, while 30% of women are employed in leadership roles, and 15% in technical and academic roles. To accelerate its commitment towards cultivating a gender-equal environment, the UAE Gender Balance Council recently mandated the private sector to place women in 30% of all leadership positions by 2025.

By the year 2023, the UAE in the field of diplomacy had 12 female ambassadors, permanent representatives and consul-generals posted all over the world, and 19 directors and deputy directors working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC).

This constituted 43% of the country’s diplomatic corps members, and 11% of the total number of ambassadors, the highest rate regionally.

In the judicial branch, there are 22 female judges as of 2022 and there is a continuous increase in the number of women choosing to engage in legal professions both in the public and private sector.

As the only country in the MENA region that has achieved parity at the parliamentary level, the UAE is ranked 30th globally for advancing women’s political empowerment, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022.

In the field of economic empowerment, women in the UAE participate actively in the private sector in various roles. They have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws.

Today, women own 1-in-10 private sector companies in the UAE. Over 44,000 trade licenses were granted to women between 2018 and 2022, 58% of whom were Emirati entrepreneurs. Moreover, 23,000 Emirati businesswomen run projects worth more than AED 50 billion ($13.6 billion), and hold 15% of all positions on the boards of directors of the most prominent national chambers of commerce and industry.

By adopting bold, comprehensive and visionary policies, the UAE has set a global benchmark for equality that allows everyone to thrive and prosper. The UAE ranks first in the MENA region in both 2021 and 2022 in the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law Index. It achieved a perfect score (100 points) in five areas: freedom of movement, workplace, wages, entrepreneurship and pensions.

National Legislation

To further build on the equal rights stated in the Constitution, women in the UAE are empowered with a set of laws and decrees to ensure their equal access to education, jobs, social and health benefits and holding government offices. The UAE has set special policies, laws and initiatives to protect women and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in all aspects of the society. Some of the most transformative laws ensuring equal rights include:

  • Federal Law No. 51 of 2006 as amended by Federal law No.1 of 2015 on Combatting Human Trafficking Crimes 
  • Equal Representation in Politics: as per Decree No.1 for 2019, which stipulated that Emirati women occupy 50% of the Federal National Council.  
  • Criminalisation of Violence against Women: as per the Family Protection Policy of 2019 which explicitly criminalises violence against women. 
  • Women on Boards: Cabinet’s Decree which mandates government agencies to include women on boards of directors. This led in 2021, the Securities and Commodities Authority to request all listed companies to appoint at least one woman to their boards.  
  • Equal Pay: Cabinet Decree in 2018 endorsing a bill for the first legislation that ensures equal pay for men and women in the public sector, which was extended to the private sector in 2020.  
  • Non-Discrimination in Financial Services: circular passed in 2019, by the UAE Central Bank to all  banks and financial institutions requesting them  to provide services to  individual and business-owner customers, equally and without discrimination between men and women.
  • Equal Representation in Judiciary: as per Federal Decree issued in in 2019 by the UAE government to ensure equality in the representation of both genders in the judiciary sector. 
  • Parental Leave of 2020: making the UAE the first Arab country to grant a 10-day joint parental leave following amendments to the Federal Labour Law. 
  • Federal Decree Law No. (10) of 2019 concerning protection against domestic violence.

International Legislation

The UAE has Established Itself as a Committed Partner on Women’s Rights in the Multilateral Fora.

The UAE  has always supported international efforts for women’s equal rights and adopted the recommendations of the historic Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995.  Since then, the UAE  has been consistent in developing national strategies, plans and programmes of action to implement the Beijing Platform for Action.  

During the 20th commemoration of the Beijing Platform for Action, Generation Equality, held in Paris, the UAE served on the Board of Generation Equality’s Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action Compact, which is a key priority area for the UAE. 

Reaffirming its commitment to its international obligations, the UAE participated in the review of the fourth periodic report on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women from June 21-22, 2022, at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. 

The UAE presented its efforts in adopting directives on the legislative, institutional, strategic and policy levels to align with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. 

The UAE also works closely with UN Women (the United Nations Entity For Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment), to which the government has donated over $26 million since its founding in 2010 . The UAE ranked first in the Arab world and 10th globally in resource contribution to the UN Women in 2021. 

To further demonstrate its commitment towards women’s rights, the UAE opened in 2016 The UN Women  Liaison Office for the GCC in Abu Dhabi – the first of its kind in the region.

In November 2017, the UAE pledged $50 million to the World Bank’s Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative fund. 

Government Entities

The government's approach has led the UAE to take huge strides toward achieving gender equality and empowering women. Local and federal authorities have achieved new standards in diversity and inclusion, and they are at the heart of these efforts.

The General Women's Union was established in 1975 under Federal Law No. 6 of 1974, headed by Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, to form a national mechanism for empowering women and female entrepreneurs in the UAE. It was with the establishment of the General Women’s Union that the journey of empowering women in the UAE began.

Since its establishment, the Union has significantly contributed to policymaking, capacity-building, reviewing and proposing legislation amendments, and formulating national empowerment strategies and supervising their implementation.

The Union supported legislative reforms, backed by the National Strategy for Women Empowerment 2015-2021. It also formed a framework for all governmental institutions, the private sector and NGOs, to provide a decent life for women and invest in their capabilities.

Established in 2015, the UAE Gender Balance Council is a federal entity responsible for developing and implementing the gender balance agenda in the United Arab Emirates. The Council is chaired by Her Highness Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Women Establishment . 

The Council’s objectives are to reduce the gender gap across all government sectors, enhance the UAE’s ranking in global competitiveness reports on gender equality and achieve gender balance in decision-making positions, as well as promote the UAE’s status as a benchmark for gender balance legislation. It also launches pioneering initiatives and projects to enhance gender balance throughout the country and contribute to achieving the Council’s vision of positioning the UAE as a world model for gender balance. 

The National Committee for Combatting Human Trafficking (NCCHT) was established in 2007 pursuant to a Cabinet decree to coordinate efforts and enforce plans to combat human trafficking at various levels in all the seven emirates of the federation. The Committee includes 18 representatives from various federal and local institutions. 

The UAE condemns, prohibits and penalises human trafficking through a comprehensive action plan to fight it regionally and abroad. The plan includes: prevention of human trafficking, prosecution and punishment of traffickers, protection of survivors and promotion of international cooperation. 

Several bodies provide care and rehabilitation to victims of human trafficking, including Ewaa Centre, the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, the Abu Dhabi Center for Shelter and Humanitarian Care, and the Women’s Protection Center in Sharjah. 

Global Reports

The UAE is constantly working on enhancing its position in global competitiveness reports on gender equality and women’s empowerment, and is developing its role as an exemplary model for any related legislation. These efforts have contributed to the UAE’s rise among international rankings and indices, including: