Among the Arabic countries of the Middle East, there are significant differences among the rights and privileges afforded to the women that reside in these various countries. The United Arab Emirates is the most socially liberal of the Gulf states, and has made significant strides to promote equality within not only UAE society, but also in the government, promoting women to prominent positions. On the other side of the spectrum lie the Palestinian Territories (land now under the control of Israel), where violence against women is an ingrained and accepted part of every day life, with no steps to equality being taken.
Ranked as a leader of gender equality in the region, the UAE has shifted to prioritize equality between the sexes. In 2015, the country established the Gender Balance Council, which is a federal entity that focuses on strengthening the role and prevalence of women in government positions. In addition to furthering gender equality in the political arena, equal access to education has become a priority for the country. In 2014 the UAE opened the region’s first military college for women, Khawla Bint Al Azwar Military School. The school focuses on training, both physical and mental, and also puts an emphasis on empowering women and encouraging them to take on leadership roles in every aspect of their life.
The issue of gender equality in the Middle East is a complex and many-headed beast. Each country presents it’s own issues, obstacles, and long history of repressing women in one way or another, all of which have been exacerbated by extended periods of civil unrest and economic downturn. It will be interesting to further explore the success of the UAE, it seems to be an outlier, and I do wonder what the circumstances were historically to pave the way for such a push for equality.