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Sheikh Khalifa: A legacy of women’s advancement

UAE President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan/ copyright WAM

 The late HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, former president of the UAE, was passionate about empowering women to take an equal place in society, and his granddaughter, Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, co-founder of Aurora50, is continuing her family’s work on women’s advancement. 

“Aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the UAE has pledged to leave no one behind,” she said in a pre-recorded speech to the European Institute of Innovation for Sustainability, filmed before the news of Sheikh Khalifa’s death was announced. 

Previously she has stated that it is “our collective duty” to “lead responsibly and create a better world for future generations”, a motto that fits both her roles at Aurora50 and as founder and chief executive of the Alliances for Global Sustainability. 

Sheikh Khalifa’ strategic plan for wellbeing

Sheikh Khalifa succeeded the UAE’s Founding Father, the late HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, as President in November 2004. He died on 13 May 2022 aged 73.

The UAE is observing a 40-day state mourning with the flag flown at half-mast, with work suspended at all ministries, departments, and federal, local and private entities for three days from 14 May.

UAE President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
UAE President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan/ copyright WAM

After assuming power, the late Sheikh Khalifa launched the first strategic plan of the UAE Government to achieve balanced and sustainable development and ensure the wellbeing of UAE residents.

“Opportunities made to women… are, in fact, the nature of things.”

HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, former president of the UAE

‘Rightful role in society’

He was passionate about empowering women. “Opportunities made to women are not dictated by favour or legal preference,” said Sheikh Khalifa. “They are, in fact, the nature of things.

“The Emirati woman, before being a minister or deputy, is a mother, the head of a family, she is hard-working, a doctor, a teacher, a poet, a writer, a contributor to social activities.”

His father Sheikh Zayed, was equally passionate about gender balance, saying: “Nothing makes me happier than to see women assume their rightful role in society and fulfil their potential.

“Nothing should stop the progress of women.”

HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Founding Father

“Nothing should stop the progress of women. They have equal rights to men in assuming top positions that befit their abilities and qualifications.”

Sheikh Khalifa’s mandated UAE board quota

UAE President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
UAE President HH Sheikh Khalifa, who died in May 2022/ copyright WAM

During Sheikh Khalifa’s time as the nation’s president, the UAE has:

  • 2012: Become the first Arab country and the second in the world to introduce the mandatory appointment of women to the boards of government institutions
  • 2015: Implemented a National Strategy to empower Emirati women
  • 2015: Created the Gender Balance Council
  • 2015: Prohibited discrimination in the workplace
  • 2015: Aligned the UAE’s Vision 2021 and Centennial Vision (7071) with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its 2030 Agenda, including SDG 5 – gender equality
  • 2016: Appointed Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui as Minister of State for Youth Affairs, making her the youngest government minister in the world
  • 2018: Created 50:50 gender parity on the Federal National Council
  • 2021: Reached the planet Mars – the first Arabic and Islamic nation to do so – with a woman, HE Sarah bint Yousif Al-Amiri, leading the Hope mission as chair of the UAE Space Agency
  • 2021: Mandated equal pay for equal work
  • 2021: Expanded maternity leave and introduced paternity leave
  • 2021: Mandated the appointment of one woman board director for all listed companies.

Sheikh Khalifa never lost sight of his overriding commitment to the wellbeing of his citizens, as pledged during his first National Day address.

The nation mourns its second president, and Aurora50 extends its heartfelt condolences to the Al Nahyan family and the UAE people.

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