ABU DHABI - Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union (GWU), President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation (FDF), the “Mother of the Nation,” the GWU, in collaboration with the COP28 Committee, organised a discussion session under the theme, “Emirati women and sustainable environment.”

The session began with Sheikha Fatima’s speech, delivered on her behalf by Sheikha Hessa bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, Advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In her speech, Sheikha Fatima said, “I am honoured to speak to you all, and I would like to offer my congratulations to Emirati women and all other women in the country and aspire for more advancement and well-being for them.”

"As we honour the daughters of Zayed every year, I feel grateful, respectful and proud of every woman who has contributed to the progress and prosperity of our nation and worked hard to create a brighter, more advanced and splendid future for our homeland. I also salute every woman who has fulfilled her family responsibilities as a loyal daughter, a supportive wife and a caring mother to future generations, a role I regard as the most noble and influential on Earth due to its vital impact on raising our sons and daughters and preserving our rich and ancestral culture across generations.''

" This beloved nation of ours will always be a symbol of the wise link between the past, present and future and an oasis of human creativity, innovation and humanitarian giving that knows no limits under the wise leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Presidential Court, and their brothers, Supreme Council Members and Rulers of the Emirates. They are tirelessly committed to ensuring that our nation attains a distinguished stature that will shape a suitable future for our upcoming generations,” she added.

“We honour the achievements of our nation in various domains, and we are proud of its progress and distinguished reputation, especially in empowering women. We pay tribute to the founder and symbol of the state, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who was the main supporter and motivator of Emirati women, establishing a legacy that is alive and timeless in the hearts of our sons and daughters,” she stressed.

“The UAE’s leadership has shown its faith in women’s abilities and roles, most notably during the Year of Sustainability launched by President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, who announced it as the theme for 2023. This is also evident in the UAE’s preparations for hosting the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28). Some of the prominent women who are leading and contributing to this global event are Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of Community Development and COP28 Youth Climate Champion, Razan Al Mubarak, UN High-Level Climate Champion for COP28, and Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and the Environment. Moreover, many women are part of the national team organising this important event, underscoring the UAE’s distinguished position in the world’s climate change arena,” she added.

“Climate change is an accelerating global issue, with more frequent and intense heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, wildfires and floods. These extreme weather events are devastatingly impacting people and communities, especially the most vulnerable, including women. The United Nations (UN) and many countries worldwide have recognised the need for gender-responsive climate action. This means taking into account women's specific needs and vulnerabilities when drafting climate policies and programmes,” she explained.

Sheikha Fatima said that the GWU follows the guidance of the UAE’s leadership to launch initiatives that support the nation’s efforts to protect the climate for the benefit of future generations by creating an enabling environment for women and raising public awareness about gender equality and climate change.

She also stressed the importance of women’s participation in the climate change action system, which plays a significant role in addressing the root causes of global challenges that affect sustainable development, affirming that climate change is one of the critical pillars of sustainable development.

“The ‘Climate Change and Gender Equality’ initiative is a notable example of the efforts to empower women in climate change discussions. It is a joint project of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the GWU, and the United Nations Women’s Office in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GGC) region. The initiative aims to create a comprehensive programme of events to promote women’s participation in climate change dialogues,” she noted.

In a speech delivered on behalf of the COP28 team, Razan Al Mubarak, also President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said, “I would like to express my gratitude and admiration to H.H. Sheikha Fatima, the pioneer of women’s empowerment and the builder of a homeland that follows the vision, values and principles of the late Sheikh Zayed on Emirati Women’s Day.”

“This day marks the anniversary of the founding of the GWU in 1975. I am honoured to be part of the COP28 leadership team and I am also proud to be the first Arab woman to lead the IUCN, a global organisation dedicated to nature conservation. I owe this opportunity to my homeland, which has given me and many other women a chance to represent our nation at COP28, where we make up more than half of our negotiators,” she added.

Haifa Al Kaylani, Chairwoman of the Board of the Arab International Women’s Forum, said she was delighted to join the Emirati Women’s Day celebration, praising the UAE’s leadership for promoting and empowering women and encouraging their involvement in business and sustainable development across various sectors.

She also stressed that the UAE’s appointment of female leaders at COP28 demonstrates its dedication to a global sustainable future and will show the world how to overcome challenges and promote cooperation, noting that the UAE has achieved remarkable progress due to its leadership’s strategic investment in education over many decades, which has made the country a global hub for knowledge, research and science.

The session featured several prominent leaders who shared their insights.

Almheiri highlighted the importance of COP28 for the global community and the country, noting that the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment is working to tackle climate change challenges and ensure a sustainable future for the next generations.

Dr. Nawal Al Hosani, UAE Envoy to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), explained the agency’s mission and the major energy challenges facing the world and the UAE, noting the country’s initiatives in clean and alternative energy and how they contribute to combatting climate change.

Gaia Al Ahbabi,i, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Ambassador for the COP28 Youth, concluded the session by speaking on behalf of future generations, stating that Emirati women have long been committed to sustainability, even before it was a popular concept.

She also talked about traditional practices of home agriculture and creative recycling, adding that she and her peers are committed to continuing these practices to preserve the environment.

On the sidelines of the session, the GWU, in collaboration with the National Centre of Meteorology, announced the launch of an e-sustainability screen, which will serve the residents of Al Mushrif by providing live updates on weather conditions, pollution levels and daily air quality. The screen is strategically placed at the main intersection leading to the GWU’s building.

The General Women's Union also organised a side exhibition featuring traditional clothing and heritage items made from recycled materials. This exhibition showcases a section of Emirati heritage through the traditional dress of Emirati women and highlights innovative and attractive methods of reusing household items. These products were created by the Emirati Craftswomen's Academy, launched by Sheikha Fatima in 2020, to promote Emirati heritage and pass it down to future generations.