- Dubai’s government held its annual gender balance awards on Sunday, where all the prizes went to men.
- The Gender Balance Index for the federal government 2018 offered three awards: best gender personality, best work initiative, and best department.
- Two male government department heads, and one male military officer received framed golden trophies from Dubai’s emir.
- Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum “recognised the efforts” of one woman, but she did not get an award.
- Despite the poor optics, the United Arab Emirates is well above the average for gender balance in the region, according to the UN.
The Dubai government held its annual gender balance awards on Sunday, and men walked away with every trophy.
The Gender Balance Index 2018 awards offered up three prizes for people or departments who champion women and the pursuit of gender equality in Dubai.
These were a gender “personality” award, an award for a workplace initiative to make men and women more equal, and a departmental award for supporting gender balance.
The Dubai government’s media office tweeted a photo of the winners after the ceremony, who were all men.
. @HHShkMohd honors the winners of the Gender Balance Index 2018. The Index features three categories: Best Personality for Supporting Gender Balance, Best Federal Entity for Supporting Gender Balance, and the Best Initiative for Supporting Gender Balance. #UAE pic.twitter.com/qE5GkYHzTo
— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) January 27, 2019
The tweet said the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, “honours the winners of the Gender Balance Index 2018.”
The Sheikh “recognised the efforts” of one woman, Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.
She carried out “exceptional projects that helped achieve the nation’s goals of gender balance,” the press statement said – but she did not win an award.
She is also a member of the royal family and the wife of the Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
When asked by Business Insider about the lack of female prize winners, the Dubai Gender Balance Council told us: “During the Index’s second edition, recipients of the Index’s awards happened to be entities led by men.”
“This is indicative of the great and extraordinary progress we have made as a nation, where men in the UAE are proactively working alongside women to champion gender balance as a national priority,” they added.
On his personal Twitter account, the Sheikh described the awards as: “A great effort led by many parties to establish an environment that achieves a balance between the two sexes.”
The United Arab Emirates is one of the leaders in the middle east for gender balance, according to UN Human Development Reports, with a Gender Development Index (GDI) of 0.97. This compares with 0.88 in Saudi Arabia.
The UAE is the highest ranked country for gender equality in the Gulf region and legislation was approved in April to get equal pay for women.
After the government’s press office tweeted the images, people were quick to notice the lack of female award winners.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reporter Golnaz Esfandiari tweeted: “All winners of Gender Balance Index are men!?”
Nicholas McGeehan, a former Middle East Researcher with Human Rights Watch, tweeted: “Best Gender Balance Awards Ever.”
Oz Katerji, freelance conflict and rights journalist tweeted: “This would be funny, if it was not so utterly depressing.”
In the statement Dubai’s government said: “Over the past four years, the UAE Gender Balance Council has launched several initiatives and projects to promote gender balance in the country and move towards greater success and global leadership.”
“The achievements of Emirati women today reaffirm the wise vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who believed in the importance of the role of women, and their right to work and become key partners in society.”
The full titles of the awards were:
- Best Personality Supporting Gender Balance
- Best Federal & Institutional Authority Supporting Gender Balance
- Best Gender Balance Initiative
Business Insider has contacted officials in Dubai for comment, but has yet to receive a reply.
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