The New Arab

Dubai gives 'gender-balance award' to a bunch of dudes

Dubai ruler awards gender-balance medals to three men [Twitter/Dubai Media Office]

Date of publication: 28 January, 2019

Absent also were any hints of irony, but there was a fair measure of face palms following the attempted UAE publicity coup.
Women were nowhere to be seen as UAE Vice President and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (MBR) handed out medals on Sunday to a man-only group, for their contributions to "gender balance" in the Gulf state.

Absent also were any hints of irony, but there was a fair measure of facepalms.

"The achievements of Emirati women today reaffirm the wise vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan (Editor's note: a man), who believed in the importance of the role of women, and their right to work and become key partners in society," Sheikh Mohammed said during the ceremony, according to the state-run news agency WAM.

The Dubai ruler then gave medals to the three men who won the UAE government's Gender Balance Index for 2018 in three categories: Best Personality Supporting Gender Balance, Best Federal Authority Supporting Gender Balance and the Best Gender Balance Initiative, according to WAM.

The winning trio include the UAE's interior minister, Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who was honoured for enlisting more women into the UAE armed forces. 

The lack of women in the initiative aimed at empowering women was seen by social media users as a major fail, and triggered immediate ridicule by dozens of commentators that has since been picked up by the international press.

"So deluded you can't even see the irony here," Joey Ayoub, a Lebanese activist, tweeted in response to a post by the official Dubai Media Office account.

"I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you, but you forgot to invite WOMEN," pointed out Rianne Meijer, also on Twitter.

UAE authorities are yet to issue an official comment on the story.

Men-only panels - or with token female representation - are a common problem in the region, and events focusing on women that end up being dominated by men are not unheard of.

In March 2017, neighbouring Saudi Arabia invited ridicule when images of a 'Girls Council' meeting in the province of Qassim attended by an all-men panel went viral

The images showed 13 men seated on stage, while female participation was limited to a video-link via which an unknown number of female participants joined from another room.

That meeting was chaired by Prince Faisal bin Mishal bin Saud, the governor of al-Qassim province, who said the conference was the first of its kind in the kingdom and a "source of pride".

"In the Qassim region we look at women as sisters to men, and we feel responsible to open up more and more opportunities in all that will serve the work of women and girls," he claimed at the time.

The Qassim Girls Council is chaired by Abir bint Salman, the wife of the governor.

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