Changes in Law - Women in UAE Unaware of their Rights


Changing law may be costing women time off

ABU DHABI - AUG 13: Many women are getting a raw deal because they are ignorant of their rights, according to a national support group.

The General Women’s Union (GWU) says even those who are aware of the law often do not know where to turn for help.

It is planning a campaign that will highlight both federal and local laws as they apply to women through a series of workshops and training sessions. The union also plans to instruct four female Emirati lawyers in helping women in their communities.

“In our culture, women don’t go to court and fight for their rights,” said Mariam al Romaithi, project co-ordinator of the campaign. “They don’t know what roads are open to them or what their rights are. We want to change that.”

The union intended to explain the law, break it down, and show women how much they could benefit from understanding how it applied to them, she said.

Even on relatively simple issues such as holiday entitlement or maternity leave, laws had changed and were changing, leaving many women in the dark.

“We have so many laws that protect women’s rights,” Ms al Romaithi said. “These laws, for example those dealing with human resources and employment, are sometimes amended, usually through efforts made by the women’s union.

“We want to make sure that the Emirati woman is aware of the details of the laws that concern her, and how they have recently changed. These laws are meant to help our women, so they need to be aware of their choices.”

The union is putting the finishing touches to its campaign, which begins in October, though it has not yet chosen a specific date.

“We will divide the campaign into three sections of two months each,” said Ms al Romaithi.

“A specific part of the Constitution will be tackled every two months. We will address labour law, personal status law, and civil service and human resources laws.”

A series of booklets will be produced to be distributed during the campaign. The booklets will summarise women’s rights to alimony and custody, and address UN conventions on children’s rights and discrimination against women.

“We will be training Emirati female lawyers to reach out into their communities countrywide and raise awareness about women’s rights to their peers and colleagues, and giving them these booklets will help,” Ms al Romaithi said.

Although all women are welcome to attend the workshops, the union is targeting Emiratis in particular.

“We will contact leading private sector companies and government associations in the seven emirates and ask them to nominate female, Emirati employees to attend our workshops,” said Ms al Romaithi. “We will ask the women nominated to submit their CVs and tailor workshops to their needs.”

The campaign comes as part of a larger initiative to empower women, launched by Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, chairwoman of the GWU and President Family Development Foundation, through the National Strategy for the Advancement of Women in 2002.

Najla al Awais, who was trained as an engineer and works as a marketing executive, was impressed by the union’s campaign.

“I consider myself an educated women who is aware of the laws of her country. Still, I can’t say I am aware of the specifics of the law when it comes to myself as a woman, and what I can demand or what is rightfully mine.”

Two students at Zayed University also believed that they could benefit. “For someone like myself, who will be joining the workforce soon, this is information that I need to have and it’s not easy to just go find it myself,” said Ohoud al Ishlah, an accountancy student.

Rowya al Khaalisi, who is studying communications and media, hoped that the campaign would target all sections of society.

“This needs to be an ongoing effort to reach all Emiratis and make them aware of their rights in the home and in the workplace,” she said. “Our Constitution protects the rights of women. All that’s left is for our women to learn about our constitution.”

New pay-to-park plan is on way at Adnec

ABU DHABI - AUG 13: Drivers headed to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre will soon pay to park on a sliding scale if they use its two multi-storey lots, the complex owner said yesterday.

The new system includes 30 variable message signs that will let drivers know how many spaces are available and direct them to the right floors.

APCOA Parking Limited, which manages more than one million parking spaces at more than 5,000 sites in Europe, will manage the car park from September 30 onward. Motorists will pay Dh10 (US$2.70) to park for up to four hours, Dh15 for up to seven hours, Dh20 for up to 12 hours, Dh40 for a day and Dh100 if their vehicle spends more than 24 hours in a car park.

Roadworks rumble, stores grumble

AL AIN - AUG 13: Cars are snarled in chaotic traffic, keeping customers from businesses – and the ones that make it to their destination have nowhere to park.

The cause, drivers and business owners say, are roadworks in the city centre that are running months behind schedule.

Projects under way include the removal of the Takhteet and Mandoos roundabouts, which are being replaced by light-controlled intersections. Work, which began on June 4, was to be completed by Saturday – but as of yesterday, engineers could still be seen breaking up the road surface.

“There has been no construction going on for the past week,” said Ahmad al Milly, 23, of Syria, the manager of Wahad Emirates Computers. “I was told that construction would be finished by the middle of this month but it’s obvious that that’s not going to happen for weeks more.”

The municipality has used the car park in front of Mr al Milly’s store and other businesses in the same row as a detour route, leaving only one metre of space for shoppers to walk past.

“Since construction began, I have lost about 30 per cent of my business,” Mr al Milly said.

One shopkeeper, worried that those walking down the narrow path would hit their head on his window unit air-conditioner, fixed red-and-white warning tape to it along with some cloth padding.

Mohammed Jabar, 37, an Iraqi and part-owner of Al Saada Arts, said business was down 90 per cent.

“When customers can’t park, they go somewhere else,” he said. “Since June, I have endured construction noise, dust, ground-shaking excavation and a major loss in revenue. To add insult to injury, municipality inspectors came by yesterday and warned me that I have to change the sign in front of my shop because it’s looking a little old.

“They told me that if I don’t change the sign within eight days, I will be fined Dh8,000 (US$2,200). How can I do that when there isn’t enough space to put up a ladder? Should I close off the detour to change the sign? I will be fined for that too.”

Mr Jabar said the municipality should have taken on the project in stages rather than closing off all of Takhteet Street from Shakbout bin Sultan Street all the way to the Sinaiya District.

Pointing to a business two doors down from his shop, Mr Jabar said: “Look at Lourans Arts, the owner just up and left. He closed the store and said he won’t be back until the construction ends.”

A drive up Shakbout bin Sultan Street to the Sinaiya yesterday, a journey of only about two kilometres, took 18 minutes and involved navigating through parking lots, around barricades, through narrow streets and over the pavement.

On Mohammed bin Khalifa Street, which has been affected for the past four months by several projects to widen parking areas that were supposed to only take 45 days, business owners say they have lost up to Dh160,000 in revenue.

Abdulsalam Abdulrahman, 45, of India, a co-owner of Al Ekleel Trading Establishment, criticised the company the municipality hired to do the work, as he pointed to the broken and uneven pavement in front of the entrance to his store. “Look at this, four of my customers tripped and fell flat on their faces. One dignified Emirati customer in a khandoura was injured, so instead of coming in to buy, he left, maybe for the hospital.”

The contractor, Al Fahjan, declined to comment under orders from the municipality.

Abdulla al Ameri, the director of the internal roads and infrastructure department of the municipality, was also not available to comment.

“I am all for advancement and change for the better,” Mr Jabar said. “But my message to the municipality is ‘don’t take on more than you can handle’. It’s better to have partial chaos for brief periods of time than total chaos for a long time. Instead of one big project going on, break the big project down into little projects.”

Colleges preparing for onset of swine flu

UAE - AUG 13: As students start heading back after their summer breaks, universities are preparing to cope with potential outbreaks of swine flu.

One institution has even set aside a quarantine area in each dormitory for students suspected of having the virus.

While some institutions have begun screening, including the University of Sharjah, most are simply trying to make their staff and students aware of the symptoms, so that potential victims of the H1N1 pandemic can be quickly identified.

At most universities, the new academic year begins next month, although at some centres students have already started to return.

Many will have travelled abroad during the holiday period, increasing their risk of exposure to the virus.

Dr Balasubramani Ramjee, the director of Manipal University at Dubai International Academic City (DIAC), said posters advising of the risks and symptoms were being put up around the university.

“The number [of students] on DIAC is huge – about 5,000 mixed with each other. We cannot screen the students. We don’t have the medical facilities,” he said.

“We take all preventive measures, but we don’t want to cause undue alarm. If we do find somebody, we will have to ask that individual to be quarantined. If there is a multiple outbreak, we may need to reschedule exams or classes.”

Nearby, at Heriot-Watt University, the executive dean, Prof Brian Smart, said students would be told not to be afraid to take time off if they felt ill.“If this thing does hit big and disrupts personal study or the campus, no one should suffer academically,” he said.

Officials at Al Hosn University in Abu Dhabi said any students who felt ill or had flu-like symptoms were being asked to stay away.

In addition, Prof Abdul Sabouni, the vice chancellor and chief executive, said ventilation in classrooms was being improved in the hope of curtailing the spread of the virus from any students who were infected.

Each dormitory at the American University of Sharjah will have a room set aside for individuals suspected to have swine flu, said Dr Peter Heath, the chancellor.

Students with their own rooms who are thought to be contagious will be asked to remain in them.

The university is also putting information about swine flu on its website, and e-mailing students to encourage them to check it. New students will be informed about the risks at the university’s start-of-term orientation.

Dr Heath said screening was impractical, as every student and staff member would have to be checked every day for it to be foolproof.

Security staff at Zayed University are being told to look out for potential swine flu victims, said Dr Bob Cryan, the associate provost.

Students will also be given leaflets, and encouraged to share them with relatives, especially those who take them to lectures. Cleaning staff have been told to be extra thorough in their work.

“We have a team of people that is working on publishing a short plan that will be distributed to the students and faculty by the end of next week,” Dr Cryan added.

India crash kills four Dubai residents

DUBAI - AUG 13: A Dubai grandmother and three of her grandchildren died when their car collided with a lorry last week in the Indian state of Gujarat, officials said.

Ten members of the family and the driver, who also was killed, were travelling to their hometown of Nasik in Maharashtra state after a visit to the holy shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty in Ajmer in Rajasthan state.

The accident occurred near Gajar village, about seven kilometres from Modasa.

The accident occurred at 5.30am on Monday; six other people were injured, according to Mukesh Patel, a police sub-inspector with the Modasa rural police station.

The driver, Yusuf Abdullah Pathan, 55, died at the scene, Mr Patel said. The others killed in the wreck were identified as Naseem Bano Salim Umar, 55, the grandmother of Ahmed Abdullah al Rahim, 13, Shahima Adil Abdullah, six, and Mohammed Abdullah Adel, four.  May be one or both drivers of the vehicle were sleepy, but it was more the fault of the lorry,” he said.

Mr Patel, who was at the scene of the accident, said potholes caused by recent monsoons could have caused loss of control. That, coupled with the narrow road and an attempt by the lorry to overtake the family’s four-wheel-drive vehicle were the most obvious factors, he said in his report.


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