The Nation Sunday Print Edition - page 6

Saturday, April 25, 2015
Foreign news
Compiled by
Ravi Nagahawatte
The newest generation of women in the
United Arab Emirates looks a lot like Farha
Alshamsi: educated and career-minded.
The 31-year-old has two degrees, holds a
senior position in a government agency and
runs her own communications and advisory
company on the side.
“We have women working in all sectors
and the government does a lot to support
women… families are encouraging both
males and females to go out there and start
their own career,” she said.
At first glance, it appears that women in
the UAE enjoy some of the best working
conditions among the countries in the Mid-
dle East. But others say there is more to the
While UAE citizens like Alshamsi enjoy
privileges including free education, hous-
ing and preferential access to public sec-
tor jobs, they account for barely 10% of the
The rest of the UAE’s workforce is made
up of expatriates from all corners of the
globe — including many women — who are
attracted by the Emirates’ thriving economy,
year-round sunshine and tax-free environ-
ment. Within that expat workforce, the po-
tential for career advancement is less cer-
tain. While there is now more acceptance of
women — expats and nationals — in high-
ranking positions, damaging stereotypes
about their abilities and commitment still
exist. Flexible schedules and other adjust-
ments for working mothers remain scarce.
For Emirati women such as Alshamsi, ca-
reer possibilities are generally very bright.
Unlike their counterparts in more conserva-
tive Gulf neighbor states, Emirati women
are employed in a range of sectors from the
military and police, to engineering, media,
fashion and management, although they
still make up a tiny percentage of an expat-
dominated workforce.
There are five female cabinet ministers in
the UAE government and women are at the
forefront of several key government agen-
In February this year, the UAE vice presi-
dent and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed
bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced the for-
mation of the UAE Gender Balance Council,
which according to local press reports, will
promote new strategies for female empow-
A different story
Within the expat workforce however, the
potential for career advancement is subject
to a slew of sometimes onerous regulations.
Women who work in the service industry, as
housemaids, waitresses and lower-level of-
fice staff, have limited opportunities. They
are generally obligated to rigid and inflex-
ible contracts, often arranged by third-party
agencies. It is slightly easier for professional
expat women who work in corporate posi-
tions and come primarily from Europe, India
and other parts of the Middle East.
But it’s not all smooth. For instance,
women who accompany their husbands are
given housewife visas, which forbids them
from working without a “no objection letter”
from their spouse.
Moreover, unlike their national counter-
parts, expat women are not usually em-
ployed in the public sector.
Economic opportunities
Despite the rosy picture painted by some
happily employed UAE nationals, challenges
that exist for working women everywhere
remain, from glass ceilings and boardroom
bias, to unequal pay and limited maternity
leave. Salam Saadeh, who is not married
and who moved to Dubai from Lebanon in
2000 to work in banking and capital markets,
said the region’s very male-dominated corpo-
rate culture has made her path anything but
A former managing director of the invest-
ment banking division of SHUAA Capital, a
Middle Eastern financial services firm, Saa-
deh now runs her own venture capital firm,
“There are not as many women as men
in banking and finance globally, but I would
say there are even fewer in the Middle
East,” she said. “There are stereotypes
about women in business here, that they
are not as efficient or knowledgeable… As
a woman you do have to work twice as hard
to prove yourself.”
Baby blues
Another obstacle still facing women in the
UAE, whether expat or national, is the fairly
unflexible maternity leave. For all UAE em-
ployees, the basic legal maternity allowance
is only 45 days (equivalent to six weeks).
After that only some firms allow extended
unpaid leave.
The UAE office of global media agency
MediaCom, for example, offers its new
mothers full pay for the first 10 weeks of
leave and half pay for the next six weeks
with an option for eight additional weeks un-
paid. It has also introduced seven days paid
paternity leave, compared with the statutory
Change is coming
The Emirate of Sharjah, one of seven
emirates that make up the UAE, has also
increased its maternity allowance, for na-
tionals and expatriates, to 60 days, and
the Dubai International Financial Centre, a
‘free zone’ where a number of multi-national
companies are based, gives its female staff
65 working days off for maternity leave, 33
fully paid, and 32 on half pay.
Almazrouei, the journalist, said empower-
ment programs aimed at women have done
a lot, but enticing women into the workplace
would require even more effort, echoing the
plight of women across the globe. BBC
Editor’s Note: This is the third story in
a six-week series focused on women and
work in the Middle East
More than 1,200 tourism enterprise repre-
sentatives, tourism planners, experts and me-
diagathered in Beijing recently for the 2015
Conference for Tourism Retailers and Sup-
pliers heldby Easytour International Travel
Service (Beijing).
They shared their experiences in keynote
speeches about the tourism industry’s devel-
opmentand trends in the Internet era.
“Good quality products and service always
count,” says Sheng Faqiang, co-founder and-
chairman of Beijing Toread Outdoor Prod-
ucts. Sheng says Toread will work with Bei-
jing-based venture capitalist Dark Horse
Fund to offer atravel fund of 200 million yuan
($32.3 million) and proper business training
to excellententrepreneurs in outdoor, tour-
ism and sport industries.
Easytour will recruit experienced talents
in the industry to be tourism planners, sav-
ing time forthe consumers and offering cus-
tomized itineraries. Zhen Hao, CEO of Easy-
tour says theInternet has changed traditional
tourism services in significant ways.
Eight rail lines between Beijing, Shanghai,
Guangzhou and Shenzhen are creating special
compartments for single female passengers to
spare them the potential embarrassment and
danger of sharing a closed sleeper room with
unfamiliar males.
“When passengers buy tickets, the sys-
tem will automatically identify their gender
based on their ID number and allocate seats
in the special compartments to females who
are traveling alone,” said a spokesman for
Railway Interests.
For female commuters, the upcoming poli-
cy may significantly improve their riding ex-
perience and sense of security.
“I commute a lot because of my work, and
sleeper trains are always my first choice. But
I’m often afraid of being assigned a sleeper
compartment with three unfamiliar men. I
always ask the conductor to help me transfer
to another sleeper when it happens,” said Bai
Peixin, an office worker in Beijing.
It is not the first time that China’s railway
system has created female-only compart-
Beijing Today
-- Chinese President Xi Jinping
said here Thursday that his country stands
ready to work with relevant parties to ham-
mer out a fair, balanced and all-win agree-
ment on the Iranian nuclear issue.
He made the remarks in a meeting with his
Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, dur-
ing which the Chinese president welcomed
the recent framework deal Iran reached with
the so-called P5+1 countries. The consensus
marked a positive step toward the conclusion
of a comprehensive accord, Xi said, adding
that Beijing will continue to play a construc-
tive role in the negotiations.
On bilateral ties, Xi stressed that China at-
taches great importance to developing ties
with Iran, and suggested that the two sides
maintain high-level contact and exchanges in
various fields, so as to enhance strategic mu-
tual trust.
The future of travel
High-speed rails add female
Xi calls for
All-win Iranian nuclear deal
Women and work in the Middle East
Is Dubai the best place to work?
Lieutenant Maitha Obaid Almehairi from Sharjah is on the Dubai Police force.
Credit: Louise Redvers
The greatest tragedy of Rana Plaza is that
no-one should have died. Cracks had ap-
peared the day before the eight-storey build-
ing outside the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka,
The building had been evacuated, but the
next morning managers at garment factories
there demanded workers go back in.
That led to one of the worst industrial ac-
cidents of modern times. Just after 09:00 lo-
cal time on 24 April 2013, Rana Plaza came
crashing down, killing more than 1,100 peo-
ple and injuring more than 2,500.
The fact that workers didn’t feel able to
stand up to pressure from their managers to
go back into the doomed building led to one
of the key recommendations in the wake of
the tragedy.
Even US President Barack Obama joined
the calls to strengthen workers’ rights.
Bangladesh “is not taking steps to afford
internationally recognised worker rights to
workers in the country,” he told Congress
three months after the tragedy.
Rana Plaza revealed in horrific fashion how
we all play a part, albeit indirectly, in what
happens in the garment factories of Bangla-
The factories in the building were making
shirts, trousers and leggings for nearly 30
Western retailers and brands including Ben-
etton, Primark, Matalan, Walmart and Man-
go. They were part of the incredible boom the
country’s garment industry has experienced
over the past 40 years.
From almost nothing it has grown to be-
come the world’s second biggest exporter of
clothes after China. Garment makers in Ban-
gladesh now employ four million workers,
who create exports worth $25bn a year - 80%
of the country’s total.
There is no question the industry’s growth
has helped to lift millions of Bangladeshis out
of poverty but the price has been low wages,
poor conditions and shoddy buildings.
There have been improvements in the
wake of the disaster. The minimum wage
has been increased and international brands
have got together to finance fire and building
safety improvements in the factories they use
in Bangladesh.
An Islamic center in Australia,
attended by two teenagers charged
with terrorism-related offences,
has closed its doors.
The al-Furqan Islamic center in
south-west Melbourne said it be-
lieved that it was the best course
of action given the “pressure” it
had received.
Five teenagers were arrested af-
ter anti-terror raids last weekend.
Police said the men were plan-
ning to carry out an attack during
an Anzac memorial event.
The al-Furqan Islamic Center
said that the decision to close had
“not been taken lightly”.
It said in a statement: “We be-
lieve that given the constant ha-
rassment, pressure and false accu-
sations levelled against the center
- particularly by media and politi-
cians - this is the best course of ac-
tion for the protection of the local
community, its members, and the
broader Muslim community that
is often implicated in these insidi-
ous campaigns.”
The center and bookstore had
come under scrutiny after it
was revealed that three of those
charged after the raids had at-
tended it.
Harun Causevic and Sevdet
Besim, both 18, have both been
charged with conspiracy to com-
mit acts done in preparation for,
or planning, terrorist acts.
Another teenager was charged
with weapons-related offences.
The other two men have been re-
Nearly 200 police officers took
part in the Melbourne operation
early on Saturday morning.
The anti corruption branch
(ACB) of Delhi Government on Tuesday eve-
ning registered FIRs against five teachers of
a senior secondary school in Model Town for
helping 12th-graders cheat in their final ex-
ams in exchange for money. One of the teach-
ers was arrested while the others were being
After a student complained on the anti-cor-
ruption helpline (1031), ACB raided the school
while the chemistry exam of the National
Institute of Open Schooling was on and alleg-
edly caught the teachers red-handed. This is
the first case to lead to major action after the
helpline was instituted.
One teacher was caught during a transac-
tion while chits with answers were discov-
ered in the pockets of the remaining four, the
government said. “The ACB raid followed a
complaint... that some teachers of the Gov-
ernment Sarvodya Bal Vidyalaya, Rana Prat-
apBagh (Model Town) were allowing students
of classes 11 and 12 to cheat after accepting
bribes,” a government statement said.
Once the complaint was registered, ACB
made plans for a trap. “The callers on the
helpline were advised to lay a trap... and time
was fixed with them for a raid by the ACB
during the Class 12 chemistry final exam on
An Indian jewelry advertisement with
top Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai
Bachchan has been withdrawn after criti-
cism that it was “racist” and promoted
child slavery.
The advertisement shows a black, emaci-
ated child holding a red parasol over the
fair, bejewelled actress.
A group of activists, in an open let-
ter to Ms Rai Bachchan, called the image
“extremely objectionable”. The film star’s
publicist said she had been photographed
without the backdrop.
“The final layout of the ad is entirely
the prerogative of the creative team for a
brand,” Ms Rai Bachchan’s publicist said
in a statement, suggesting that the actress
was not involved in the final image that ap-
peared in the advertisement.
The government has hired
an American PR agency
ahead of Japanese PrimeMin-
ister Shinzo Abe’s address to
the U.S. Congress next week,
online media reports said
Public Relations was hired in
March to “provide strategic
public relations counsel for
the Republic of Korea,” one
of the reports said, quoting
documents filed with the U.S.
Justice Department.
The six-month contract will
cost the government $156,000.
The Wall Street Journal
said the Korean government
hired the PR firm to “promote
its position on Japan’s war
The firm’s president, Jef-
frey Birnbaum, would not
confirm whether the com-
pany was working on issues
related to tensions between
Korea and Japan, the reports
Islamic center in
Australia shuts
Twohundredofficerswere involved
in Saturday’s raids, including at this
house in Hallam
Delhi teacher arrested for aiding exam cheats
Aishwarya Rai ‘racist’ jewelry ad
withdrawn in India
Korea hires PR outfit before
Abe’s US speech
Bangladeshi garment workers still
facing intimidation
Brussels, Belgium (AFP)-
Britain and France agreed
Thursday to seekUNapproval
for an EU military operation
against people smugglers, in a
bid to curb the soaring num-
ber of migrants dying as they
seek a better life in Europe.
At crisis talks in Brus-
sels, EU leaders also decided
to triple funds for the bloc’s
maritime search and rescue
operation, as horrific details
continued to emerge of last
weekend’s shipwreck that
saw hundreds drown in the
Mediterranean’s worst mi-
grant disaster.
European Council Presi-
dent Donald Tusk said EU
foreign policy chief Federica
Mogherini had been tasked
to “propose action in order to
capture and destroy the smug-
glers’ vessels before they can
be used.”
Italian Prime Minister Mat-
teo Renzi added that leaders
from France and Britain --
both permanent members of
theUNSecurityCouncil -- had
“committed to get a resolution
from the United Nations for
an intervention in Libya.”
But leaders failed to agree
on concrete action over the
sensitive issue of what to
do with migrants -- many of
whom depart from chaos-rid-
den Libya -- once they land on
European shores.
“I had hoped we could have
been more ambitious but that
was not possible,” EU Com-
mission chief Jean-Claude
Juncker said at a post-summit
press briefing.
Ahead of the high-profile
gathering, poignant events
had taken place in Malta and
Brussels to try and highlight
the tragic human dimension
of migrant shipwrecks.
Already, more than 1,750
migrants have died crossing
the Mediterranean this year
-- 30 times more than the same
period in 2014.
EU leaders seek UN clearance for operation against migrant smugglers
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