The UAE has partnered with the United Nations to encourage more Arab women to sign up to the military and join peacekeeping operations abroad.
Officials from the Ministry of Defence signed the agreement along with the General Women’s Union on Saturday, with the programme set to begin next year.
Under the scheme, women from the Arab region will be given three months basic military training followed by two weeks of peacekeeping instruction.
The initiative was agreed by the United Nations Entity for Gender and the Empowerment of Women in New York, also known as UN Women.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, who attended the signing ceremony, said the agreement represented an “historic moment” in the UAE’s relationship with UN Women.
“The UAE will continue to advocate for the full empowerment of women, particularly under the leadership of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak,” he said.
“We will do this hand-in-hand with our Ministry of Defence, the General Women’s Union, and our partners at UN Women to ensure that women in our region and around the world are given the training they need to serve in the security sector, where their presence and leadership adds to the operational effectiveness of missions and increases peace and stability globally.”
The UAE’s Ministry of Defence will lead the training programme at the Khawla bint Al Azwar Military Academy for Women in Abu Dhabi.
The academy is the first of its kind in the region and was founded in 1991 at the directive of Sheikh Zayed, the Founder of the UAE.
Major General Abdulla Al Hashmi, assistant under-secretary for support services at the Ministry of Defence, said the UAE was committed to ensuring women were fully equipped with the skills necessary to contribute to peace and security globally.
UN Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka also said female peacekeepers added “tremendous value to operational effectiveness”.
“Security Council Resolution 2242 calls on member states to double the participation of women as uniformed personnel in UN Peacekeeping Operations by 2020,” she said.
“Innovative partnerships and initiatives like this one are key to meeting this target.”
Noura Al Suwaidi, director-general of the General Women’s Union said the body has led national efforts in empowering women since 1975, under the patronage of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak.
“We believe that these efforts extend to empowering women in all sectors, including the security sector, where women make real, tangible contributions every day to keeping families and communities safe,” she said.
Compulsory national service for all Emirati men aged between 18 and 30 was first introduced in 2014. Women of the same age group can sign up to volunteer, as can men aged between 30 and 40.