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08 March 2021

MBRSG Organised Special Webinar on International Women’s Day 2021

The Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) organised a special webinar on International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8, 2021, to feature women from across the UAE who have played a major role in managing the COVID-19 pandemic and are spearheading recovery efforts.

The United Nations chose ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’ as its theme for IWD 2021, in a bid to celebrate the tremendous efforts women and girls are leading all around the world in order to create a more equal future and to ensure swift recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on world economies.

Prof. Raed Awamleh, Dean of MBRSG, delivered a short speech opening the one-hour webinar, which was moderated by Dr Immanuel Azaad Moonesar, Associate Professor of Health Administration and Policy at MBRSG, and featured Dr Farida Al Khaja, CEO of the Clinical Support Services and Nursing Sector at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), and Dr Zainab Nader Khazaal, Manager of the Healthcare Policy and Standards Department at the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shed renewed light on the tremendous role that women play in society; they have made enormous contributions towards mitigating the impact of the crisis,” said H.E. Dr Ali bin Sebaa Al Marri, Executive President of MBRSG. “Women make up 70% of health and social care workers, yet only hold a quarter of decision-making roles in health. This is a discrepancy that we believe must be addressed to ensure women can fully contribute to the effort to eradicate the virus, which, in turn will help accelerate economic recovery.”

“Women have long played a lead role in driving human civilisation and they continue to do so every day,” H.E. Al Marri continued. “Since its very inception, the UAE has reserved an advanced place for women in society. In 2020, half of the UAE’s Federal National Council was made up of women, in addition to 16.7% of the Council of Ministers. Our leadership has faith in women’s skills, ability to drive economic prosperity and sustainable development, and great potential to excel in leadership positions.”

“The Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government is honoured to be hosting this webinar to shed light on the remarkable contributions women made during the pandemic, which we have every confidence they will continue to make after it,” Dr Al Marri noted.  

The event brought to light important statistics about women on the frontline, as well as in general during the pandemic. Women are the clear majority (70%) of the health and social care workforce, making them a critical contributor to the design and delivery of testing. Over 80% of the global nursing and midwifery workforce and 90% of social care workers are women, allowing them to lead the way in delivering diagnostic testing at the primary healthcare level. Nevertheless, women hold only 25% of decision-making roles in health and so have limited opportunity to drive the design of health systems to ensure testing is prioritised.

In some countries, COVID-19 infections among female health workers are twice that of their male counterparts, despite figures showing that in the general population, both infection rates deaths were more levelled or even higher among men. Globally, 50.9% of infections and 60.2% of COVID-19 fatalities were men, as opposed to 49.1% and 39.8%, respectively, for women. 

Participants explored policy options that help ensure responses and stimulus packages account for gender. These include integrating gender impact assessment processes and tools in emergency management; gender budgeting for the fiscal stimulus package to allow governments to understand the collective impact of the package on gender equality objectives; running robust gender and intersectional analysis; and, perhaps most importantly, taking action to expand the role of women and women’s agencies in decision making, including around prevention and response to COVID-19. 

Dr Farida Al Khaja, CEO of the Clinical Support Services and Nursing Sector at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said: “Women play a vital role in all areas of society; they possess many capabilities that qualify them to lead the transformation in the UAE and the world. The essential role of women was especially highlighted during the public health crisis through their contributions to confronting this pandemic as frontline workers in the medical and nursing staff, working to save the lives of patients affected by COVID-19. In Dubai, female doctors and nurses were exemplary in their efforts to curb the impact of the crisis, and to this day, these women continue to support the government’s efforts to confront the virus, providing healthcare to those infected and preventing the spread of the virus by taking the vaccines approved in the emirate.”

Dr Al Khaja added: “The Dubai government takes the utmost care of women in all sectors, especially in the medical field, given the ability they have demonstrated over many years, where they shouldered much of the responsibility of operating the sector and ensuring it fulfils its obligations towards citizens and residents in Dubai. We look forward to the coming period to have a significant impact on women in the sector, allowing them to play a greater role in leading efforts to achieve community health and prevention through many initiatives and pioneering programmes launched by the government and the Dubai Health Authority.”
On a similar note, the webinar explored pertinent questions around women and their experience in dealing with and overcoming the challenges of the pandemic. Participants were given a platform to outline the obstacles and difficulties they faced in these unprecedented times, and to tell the story of how they managed to adapt to them and triumph over them. 

The COVID-19 crisis created a new need to balance one’s own wellbeing with that of others – in both personal and professional settings. Participants in the webinar spoke about their own experiences, frustrations, and success in that regard, before elaborating on the broader lessons they learned throughout this trying period.

Many delegates revealed they had developed a new set of     professional skills and competencies that they needed to learn to adapt to the fast-evolving COVID-19 landscape – skills that can be shared with others to help them develop the same kind of competencies and resilience.

Dr Zainab Nader Khazaal said: “The achievements of Emirati women are testament to their excellence, their success, and their vast contributions to the development of Emirati society. Women in the UAE have taken the lead in efforts to develop all key sectors, including healthcare. They played a critical role during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing to the table their advanced skills and qualifications, and demonstrating their tremendous potential to participate in shaping the future.”

“Our wise leadership believes in the importance of empowering women, expanding the scope of their participation in all aspects of life, and underlining their role in raising the generations of the future,” Dr Khazaal added. “The contributions of Emirati women are evident in the health sector, where they were instrumental in efforts to ensure public health and promote prevention. We are working hard to enhance women’s role in this vital sector, which, in turn, will serve to develop the healthcare industry in its entirety.”

The event ended with a Q&A session where attendees directed their queries to the delegates about their experience with the pandemic and their recommendations and advice.

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 of every year all around the world. The UN’s theme for IWD 2021 – ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’ –  highlights the impact that girls and women worldwide had as healthcare workers, caregivers, innovators, and community organisers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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