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The New Arab

Eight Emirati women made ministers in UAE cabinet shake-up

Reem al-Hashmi now takes charge of international cooperation affairs [AFP]

Date of publication: 11 February, 2016

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Around a third of Emirati ministers are now women as the UAE announces a reshuffle of cabinet with a more youthful demographic.

Eight ministries in the United Arab Emirates will be headed by women, after a cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday.

It means that nearly one third of cabinet positions are filled by women, the highest in the Arab region.

Many pundits have also pointed out that a number of young Emiratis had also been included in the cabinet shake-up.

This includes 22-year-old Shamma al-Mazroui who will take charge of youth affairs.

Noura al-Kaabi, a well-known figure in the UAE, was made minister for federal national council affairs.

"There is no nation that believes in their women more than the UAE and it shows," she said, according to The National


"I know most of the women who are new members and they are worthy, and I think it is just great."

Ohoud al-Roumi was made head of the newly created "ministry of happiness" while Lubna al-Qassimi was made minister of tolerance.

These two new ministries were announced on Twitter by Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai on Tuesday.

"Happiness is not just a wish in our country. There will be plans, projects, programmes and indices. It will be part of the job of all ministries," he tweeted in the surprise announcement.

"The post of minister of state for tolerance has been created to promote tolerance as a fundamental value in UAE society."

This likely reflects concerns in the UAE leadership about the country's burgeoning population and growing extremism in the region.

Abu Dhabi is also likely trying cultivate a more progressive image of itself to the outside world with the reshuffle, some analysts suggested.

Changes

UAE was largely unaffected by the mass demonstrations witnessed in other parts of the Arab world from late 2010 onwards.

A security clampdown did take place on suspected Islamist and pro-democracy activists, which led to uproar among some human rights groups.

There have also been concerns about the tough new anti-terror and cyber laws that have since been unveiled, which critics say further threaten free speech in the Gulf state and personal liberties.

The UAE insists that laws such as this are essential to maintaining stability in the multicultural state.

In 2014, Abu Dhabi witnessed the murder of an American school teacher by an Emirati woman who said to have extremist links last year.

"We have formed the position of minister of state for happiness whose primary
role will be
to synchronise the state's plans, programmes and policies to
achieve the happiness of society
."


The woman was executed last year and her husband was also arrested for his alleged links to al-Qaeda in Yemen.

UAE is part of the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State group, but is thought to have seriously scaled back its contribution to the force after taking a leading role in the war against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The Gulf state is home to a large expatriate population and also one of the world's major holiday destinations, which at times contravene local traditions and has grated some sections of Emirati society.

Despite the creation of the two new ministries, there was also a sign that Abu Dhabi is attempting to cut government spending by merging some ministries. 

Sheikh Mohammed described the cabinet shake-up as the "largest structural change in the history of our federal government".

Abu Dhabi has been cutting expenditure in light of low oil prices, which threatens to seriously impact on revenues.

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