UAE gender gap grows narrower
By Samia Badih
Published 00:00 December 17, 2009
Dubai: When Suad AlHalwachi was fed up with being an employee all her life, she decided to start her own business.
“I wanted my own time,” she said. “I wanted to do what I like and travel when I want to.”
But the Bahraini woman, who’s been living in the UAE for 30 years, didn’t know that starting her own business was not going to be easy, especially not for a woman in a world where businesses are predominantly run by men.
A woman with no credit history, Al Halwachi couldn’t convince any bank to give her the capital to start her new business.
“Banks would not give me a loan because I’m a woman,” she said. “So I basically had to start my business on a shoestring.”
Al Halwachi reached out to friends and family for financial support and later started her own education consultancy firm which trains schools and provides career counselling to students who wish to pursue their higher education abroad.
Contacts lacking
Another challenge for Al Halwachi was not having the right contacts for her business. But eight years later, Al Halwachi says her firm, Education Zone, is doing well serving students in the Middle East and Africa.
She spends most of her time travelling to the US and Europe to learn more about the best universities first hand.
When asked whether she would apply for the Emirates Women’s Award that is open to nationals and expatriates, Al Halwachi said that hearing from her students after graduation as they call her “Auntie Suad” is the best reward in the world.
Al Halwachi is one of thousands of Arab women contributing to the region’s economies whose efforts go almost unnoticed. The Emirates Women’s Award is aimed at recognising their talent.