Today for Tomorrow: Meet the Women Leading the UAE Into a More Sustainable Future | Savoir Flair
Sustainability
Today for Tomorrow: Meet the Women Leading the UAE Into a More Sustainable Future
article EGOR VIKHREV/UNSPLASH
by Grace Gordon 9-minute read December 12, 2023

The future is female.

article AMIRA SHAWKY/UNSPLASH

Women aren't just more affected by climate change than men — they are the key to unlocking a better future for all of humankind. Her Excellency Razan Al Mubarak has been instrumental in bringing women into the conversation on sustainability. In a recent interview with Savoir Flair, she pointed out that women play a crucial role in climate action. "Their voices, often marginalized, are vital in shaping effective climate policies. This day amplifies our commitment to ensuring that women's perspectives are not only heard but actively shape the global response to climate change," she pointed out.

She is absolutely right. Women around the world are disproportionately impacted by climate change, a disparity rooted in existing social, economic, and political inequalities. Often holding primary responsibility for household food production, water collection, and energy procurement, women in many societies are more directly reliant on natural resources, making them particularly vulnerable to environmental changes. Climate-induced phenomena such as droughts, floods, and extreme weather events can exacerbate these challenges, leading to increased workloads and threatening their livelihoods and well-being. In many regions, women also have less access to resources and decision-making processes, limiting their capacity to adapt to climate change. This vulnerability is further compounded for women in poorer communities and developing countries, where the effects of climate change are often felt most acutely and where women have fewer opportunities and resources to cope with and recover from climate-related shocks and stresses. Recognizing and addressing this gendered impact of climate change is crucial for developing effective and equitable strategies for climate adaptation and mitigation.

This reality makes it especially powerful that, in the UAE, it's women who lead. They are the ones behind the country’s most powerful sustainability initiatives and environmental agencies, reflecting a significant shift towards gender equality and environmental responsibility in the region. These inspiring leaders are not only influencing policy and business practices but are also inspiring a new generation to prioritize sustainability. Their efforts are crucial in a country that is actively diversifying its economy and seeking sustainable solutions for its environmental challenges, such as water scarcity and reliance on fossil fuels. 

One notable area where women are making an impact is in renewable energy. The UAE has ambitious goals for sustainable energy, aiming to increase the share of clean energy in its total energy mix. Women are at the forefront of this transformation, leading projects in solar energy, wind power, and innovative technologies that reduce carbon emissions. Their leadership in this sector is significant, considering the historical dominance of men in energy-related fields. 

By breaking gender barriers, these women are not only contributing to a greener future but also paving the way for more female participation in STEM fields. Additionally, women are championing sustainability in education and community engagement. They are educators, advocates, and entrepreneurs, spreading awareness about environmental issues and encouraging sustainable practices at a grassroots level. Their work often involves collaborating with international organizations to bring best practices in sustainability to the UAE, adapting them to local contexts, and ensuring that environmental consciousness is integrated into the national education curriculum. Through these efforts, they are creating a culture of sustainability that will have long-lasting impacts on the UAE's approach to environmental challenges and gender equality in the workforce.

Meet the seven prominent women leading the charge for the UAE's sustainable future.

article ABU DHABI SUSTAINABILITY WEEK

Her Excellency Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak

For the UAE, climate change has long been a primary issue, and when it comes to leading on the topic, few are as important to driving change as Her Excellency Razan Al Mubarak. An inspiring leader, Ms. Al Mubarak is the founding Managing Director of the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, the first Arab woman to be elected President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions of COP28. As the High-Level Champion, Ms. Al Mubarak is at the forefront of integrating the crucial roles of non-state actors, including businesses, local governments, and civil societies, into the heart of climate action discussions. Her mission is deeply rooted in three key areas: advocating for nature's preservation, promoting inclusive climate action with a strong focus on gender equality, and ensuring that the voices and rights of indigenous peoples are recognized and elevated in the global environmental agenda. 

In addition to her roles in high-profile international organizations, Ms. Al Mubarak has been instrumental in guiding the UAE toward a more sustainable future through her leadership in various capacities. As the youngest person to lead an Abu Dhabi government entity and one of the only women to hold such a position when appointed managing director of the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) in 2010, she led significant initiatives such as doubling the UAE's protected wildlife areas and adopting the region's first carbon targets. Under her guidance, the EAD launched ambitious species reintroduction programs and established global partnerships for environmental data initiatives. Her foundational work with the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund has supported over 2,000 species conservation projects worldwide. Ms. Al Mubarak's vision and dedication extend to fostering community engagement and empowering future generations to be custodians of the environment​​.

article UAE MINISTRY OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENVIRONMENT

HE Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri

Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri stands as one of the most prominent figures in the UAE's pursuit of sustainability. Entrusted with leading the nation's initiatives to tackle climate change, diminish pollution, and safeguard natural habitats and biodiversity, her political career has been marked by a steadfast commitment to environmental sustainability. Before assuming her role as Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Almheiri had already significantly influenced the UAE's sustainability efforts. Her initial positions in marine research and sustainable waste management laid the groundwork for national strategies aimed at enhancing environmental awareness and reducing food wastage. Renowned for her effective public speaking skills and ability to inspire, Almheiri strongly advocates for international collaboration in environmental matters. At this year's UN Water Conference, she was the event's opening speaker, and addressed the challenges of water scarcity and extreme weather conditions, and urged attendees to take action to mitigate further impact.

article KALIMAT FOUNDATION

Her Excellency Lana Zaki Nusseibeh

For over nine years as the UAE's ambassador and permanent representative to the UN, Her Excellency Lana Zaki Nusseibeh has been a vocal advocate for environmental issues, shaping the UAE's position on climate change. In 2021 Nusseibeh issued a stark warning about the rapidly closing window of opportunity to address global warming, urging UN member states to intensify their efforts against this pressing issue.

Beyond environmental advocacy, Lana is also passionate about increasing female participation in global peace and security. Her tenure as president of the UN Women Executive Board, her instrumental role in initiating the Arab Women Military and Peacekeeping Programme, and her appointment in December 2021 as Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation for Political Affairs are testaments to her commitment to these causes. With a dynamic political career spanning over two decades, Nusseibeh's contributions and achievements command immense admiration and respect.

article EPAASH

Her Excellency Hana Saif Al Suwaidi


Her Excellency Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, as the Chairperson of the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA), plays a critical role in the conservation and management of the natural environment in her jurisdiction. Under her leadership, the EPAA focuses on safeguarding biodiversity, promoting sustainable practices, and ensuring the protection of wildlife and natural habitats. Al Suwaidi's work involves a balance of implementing strict conservation policies and promoting environmental awareness in the community. Her efforts have been pivotal in establishing protected areas – like the stunning Elebriddi reserve in Sharjah that is home to a dense population of Acacia trees. These protected sanctuaries for a variety of flora and fauna are important for educating the  public on the importance of preserving the natural world for future generations.

In addition to her conservation efforts, Al Suwaidi is also deeply involved in advancing research and scientific studies related to environmental protection. Under her guidance, the EPAA collaborates with local and international organizations to conduct research that informs conservation strategies and policies. This research plays a vital role in understanding the impacts of human activities on ecosystems and in developing sustainable solutions to environmental challenges. Al Suwaidi's commitment to combining scientific knowledge with practical conservation measures exemplifies her innovative approach to environmental stewardship. 

article EEG

Habiba Al Mar’ashi


Habiba Al Mar’ashi is the definition of a sustainability pioneer. As the Co-founder and Chairperson of the Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) – a non-governmental organization that focuses on protecting the environment and educating the public – she has been a significant force in the environmental movement within the UAE and the wider region. Al Mar’ashi's commitment is evident in EEG's wide range of initiatives, which include recycling campaigns, environmental workshops, and community clean-up projects. These programs not only contribute to a greener UAE but also foster a culture of environmental responsibility among individuals and corporations alike. Under her guidance, EEG has become a beacon of environmental advocacy and action, contributing significantly to the nation’s sustainability goals. In 2004, she singlehandedly founded the Arabia CSR Network, marking it as the first and only multi-stakeholder platform in the MENA region that includes both local and multinational entities. Her exceptional leadership has led both organizations to remarkable achievements and acclaim, positioning them as sought-after partners across various sectors.

Furthermore, Habiba Al Mar’ashi's efforts extend beyond local endeavors, as she actively engages in global environmental dialogues. Her participation in international conferences and forums highlights her dedication to addressing global environmental challenges. As a respected voice in sustainability, she advocates for stronger environmental policies and practices, not just in the UAE but on a global scale. Her work emphasizes the importance of collaborative efforts and cross-border partnerships in tackling issues like climate change, biodiversity loss, and sustainable development. Al Mar’ashi's leadership in EEG and her international involvement exemplify her deep-seated commitment to creating a sustainable future.

article IRENA

Her Excellency Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany


Not only does she hold a doctorate in Sustainable Architecture, but she is also one of the first two Emirati women to ever scale Mount Kilimanjaro. And if that wasn't already cool enough, Her Excellency Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany serves as the United Arab Emirates' Permanent Representative to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), playing a pivotal role in shaping global renewable energy policies and strategies. Her position involves engaging with international stakeholders, advocating for sustainable energy development, and contributing to the global discourse on renewable energy. Dr. Al-Hosany's expertise in sustainable development is crucial in promoting the UAE's commitment to renewable energy and sustainability on the global stage. Her work with IRENA reflects a deep understanding of the critical role renewable energy plays in addressing climate change and achieving sustainable development goals. 

Beyond her role with IRENA, HE Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany's career encompasses a broad spectrum of sustainability and renewable energy initiatives. She has been recognized for her contributions to promoting green growth and sustainable practices, both within the UAE and internationally. Meanwhile, her dedication to advancing renewable energy extends to her involvement in various academic and research institutions, where she advocates for innovation and education in the field.

article BEE'AH

Hind Al Huwaidi


As the Managing Director of BEE'AH Education, Hind Al Huwaidi plays a vital role in promoting environmental education and sustainability awareness in the Middle East. BEE'AH Education, a pioneering initiative under the umbrella of BEE'AH Group, focuses on developing and implementing educational programs that foster environmental consciousness among young minds. Under Al Huwaidi's leadership, the organization has developed a range of innovative educational tools and resources, including interactive learning experiences and digital platforms, designed to engage students and educators in environmental stewardship. Al Huwaidi's approach is holistic, encompassing not only education but also community outreach and involvement in environmental projects. This comprehensive strategy ensures a widespread impact, influencing not only the educational sphere but also the community at large. 

article SMART DUBAI

Her Excellency Dr. Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr

Her Excellency Dr. Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, renowned as a global digital and smart cities magnate, has made significant contributions to the field of urban innovation and digital transformation. As the former Founding Director General of Smart Dubai, she was instrumental in spearheading Dubai's transformation into one of the world's leading smart cities. Under her leadership, Smart Dubai developed and implemented cutting-edge digital initiatives aimed at enhancing the city's infrastructure, services, and overall quality of life. Dr. Bin Bishr's vision for a digitally empowered, efficient, and seamless urban experience has been pivotal in setting new benchmarks for smart city development globally. Her work involved integrating advanced technologies such as AI, blockchain, and data analytics into the fabric of urban governance and services, thereby fostering a more sustainable, connected, and responsive city environment. Through her work, Dr. Bin Bishr has become a global figure in the conversation around the future of cities, demonstrating how digital transformation can lead to more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive urban communities.

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