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Woman becomes head of UAE parliament in historic first

Amal al-Qubaisi, who has a PhD in architecture, will head the country's semi-elected parliament, which has a strictly advisory role
Amal al-Qubaisi sits in parliament behind a sign bearing the male form of the Arabic word for 'head' (Twitter)

A female politician took on the role of head of the UAE's Federal National Council on Wednesday, in a historic first for the country and the region.

The Federal National Council (FNC) is a semi-elected 40-member parliament that serves as an advisory body to the government.

Amal al-Qubaisi, previously the FNC’s deputy speaker, was elected speaker after the new council convened following October polls. 

Qubaisi, who has a PhD in architecture from a British university, ran unchallenged for the post.

Translation: Dr Alam al-Qubaisi is the first woman to become head of parliament in the Arab world. Emiratis are determined to lead the way towards a modern civil society

Qubaisi addressed the council on Wednesday in a brief acceptance speech, thanking the UAE’s rulers and stressing the need to “sharpen our efforts to bring our nation and our people to the highest level.

“A challenge lies before us: to urge all members of this nation to engage in the work of the parliament.”

Eight women in total have been appointed members of the 40-seat council, which has a purely advisory role and whose seats are shared equally between elected and appointed members.

In this year’s poll, 224,000 people had the right to vote out of a citizen population of just under one million.

That compared with 129,000 in 2011 and just 6,600 in the UAE's first election in 2006.

Of the 6,600 people granted a vote in 2006, 1,100 were women.

The electoral roll is drawn up by the rulers of the seven sheikhdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates, who also appoint the remaining FNC members.