They are optimistic that they will be able to fulfill the objective of the country's first elections ever: "laying the groundwork for the emergence of a more active UAE citizen," as stated by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
To that end, social, academic, economic, and political issues have been raised by many of the 65 women participating in indirect elections to the advisory Federal National Council (FNC), in which half the council's 40 members will be elected by electoral colleges chosen by the rulers themselves, who will also appoint the other half of the members.
Social values rate high in Meshgan Al Awar's campaign; the director of the Research and Studies Center at Dubai Police Academy tackles the need to bridge the gap between the Emirati and expatriate communities in the UAE.
The working mother suggests the introduction of legislation that would promote cultural exchange between the two communities, while, at the same time, preserving the Emirati identity.
Speaking of an "open hearts and open minds" policy, the ambitious candidate tells a news conference this week that "our children [interact] with so many different nationalities. This gives rise to the need for a better understanding between cultures," she said. Of the country's 4.1 million residents, only 21.9 percent are citizens, according to 2005 estimated figures.
Pointing to the growing prominence of the English language in schools and social circles, Awar also stresses the importance of the Arabic language to preserve the locals' identity. She explains that while it is important for today's children to speak and understand English, Arab children should not forget their language.
To work on all these issues and more, Awar says that the FNC's legislative role should be strengthened through reform.
Another Dubai candidate, Mona Bu Samra, who is a journalist in her early thirties, concurs on the need to maintain the Emirati identity. She also highlighs the need to push ahead with the government's 'Emiratization' program, which is aimed at promoting the employment of locals in the emirate's expatriate-dominated labor market.
Mona, who has erected a tent as her campaign center, in following with real Arabic tradition, also highlights the need for regulation regarding the controversial issue of rent in the UAE's business capital.
"One thing that everyone is concerned about is housing; it is the most common issue raised. Not many people realize that some people are living three families to one house. Anyone who has a salary of less than Dh10,000 (about $3,000) is at risk of being unable to find a home," she tells the Gulf news.
Educational development, healthcare, and gender equality are high on the agenda of Sheikha Al Mulla, director of the Dubai Childhood Development Center at the ministry of education.
Mulla calls for more qualified education experts for setting curricula as well as a better understanding of Emirati society. She is also critical of the growing privatization of health services, saying that the step has deprived citizens from access to equal healthcare services.
Meanwhile, in an amusing twist to campaigning, a father and his daughter have decided to run against each other in the upcoming elections; Mohammed Bin Ahmed Bin Ya'aroof, and his daughter Fatima showed up together to register their candidacy on the last day of registration, papers reported.
While both say they are eager to serve their country, they have different agendas in wanting to do so. Bin Ya'aroof senior says that inflation is on top of his agenda. Fatima, on the other hand, says she is most concerned about unemployment among fresh graduates as well as women's issues.
"I suffered from unemployment ... I stayed at home without a job for four years. Therefore, I feel strongly about this issue," Fatima, who is an employee at Dubai Municipality, was quoted as saying.
All candidates have big ambitions, but very little room to maneuver considering the limited nature of elections, some critics say.
To that, the president says: "We in the UAE fully believe that change does not tolerate haste when it is fundamental, systematic, and tied to the nation's destiny. It has to be well-calculated, gradual, and in tune with the society's nature, orientations, aspirations, and demography."
"We have been reliant on gradual progress since the inception of the UAE, and gradual steps in elections are an extension to that philosophy, to provide the right environment and to finalize the legal basis for a full electoral process," he adds.
Middle East Times