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Emirati Women Leaders in the Cultural Sector

From “State Feminism” to Empowerment?

In: Hawwa
Author: Laila Prager1
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  • 1 New York University Abu DhabiAbu DhabiUnited Arab Emirates
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Abstract

During the last decade Emirati women, due to their ever increasing educational achievements—sustained by a state politics of modernization—have ventured into a great variety of occupations. As a corollary, the term “women leadership” has become fashionable in public and governmental discourses, highlighting Emirati women’s successes. In the article, I compare the state narrative on women leadership and female empowerment with the experiences of 30 Emirati women leaders from the cultural sector with whom I conducted extensive interviews (2018–19) about their career pathways, family background, achievements, and the various challenges and obstacles they face—both at work and at home. In this context, it is examined how Emirati women leaders are compelled to navigate between state feminist discourses and the still prevalent conservative gender role and value expectations in the United Arab Emirates. Finally, I discuss whether and to what extent UAE state feminism facilitates Emirati women’s empowerment.

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