International Women's Day 2021: Arab women on Covid frontline

International Women's Day 2021: Arab women on Covid frontline

Women’s leadership paramount in Covid recovery

This International Women’s Day is unlike any other. It is being observed against the devastating health, social, and economic impacts of Covid-19, a pandemic that disproportionately affected women.

Hend Al Otaiba, director of strategic communication at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, sat down with Khaleej Times to reflect on the year of the pandemic, and share why she believes women need to lead in the recovery effort.

In her personal journey, Al Otaiba has heavily relied on female mentors and their expertise and hopes that this International Women’s Day can inspire women to further help one another.

“Throughout my career, I have benefited from the wisdom and expertise of female mentors who have helped me in my path,” she says. “My advice is to encourage and uplift each other. By working together to help each other pursue our goals, we can achieve so much more than when we try to do it alone.”

Al Otaiba has been at the Ministry of Foreign affairs since 2017 and is one of the most vocal Emirati female voices in the international arena. Having written op-eds for multiple foreign publications including Israel’s Haaretz Daily, Saudi Arabia’s Arab News, and New York’s Tablet Magazine, Al Otaiba understands the importance of communication.

Her message on this International Women’s Day is clear: “We must all work together to address inequalities and ensure that women are not left behind in the Covid-19 recovery period,” she said.

Recognizing the important role of women in the UAE is a matter close to Al Otaiba’s heart. The Abu Dhabi native and mother of two boys believe this year’s International Women’s Day should highlight the sacrifices women around the world have had to make, and advance coordinated global action relating to the status and involvement of women worldwide.

While men tend to suffer more severe cases of Covid-19 according to the CDC, women have been more severely impacted by the social and economic effects of the pandemic, often bearing the brunt of childcare and homeschooling, all while juggling their own professional responsibilities. UN Women reports that women tend to be overrepresented in industries most impacted by the pandemic, which directly results in further job losses.

For the UAE however, this year has also had positive developments. Despite the economic, cultural, and social setbacks, the UAE has reaped several historic accomplishments, launching the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant, becoming the fifth country to reach Mars, and the first Arab country to sign the Abraham Accords with Israel, kickstarting the momentum for renewed peace and regional alliances. When asked about her proudest moment this year, Al Otaiba highlights the UAE Mars Mission and the women who made it possible. “The probe was developed by a team of 200 Emirati engineers, experts, and researchers, of which 34% were women, the highest in the world for such a project.”

The project was led by Minister of State for Advanced Technology HE Sarah Al Amiri, herself just 34 years old, one of the UAE government’s latest prodigies and role models for generations to come. “These women have brought immense pride to our nation and have paved the way for generations of women scientists to come.” Says Al Otaiba




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