‘The abaya unifies and liberates women,’ says Emirati student

Example of dress in the UAE: ‘Business students stand with faculty member Dina Al Alami (center) and Omani guest speaker Aysha Al Wahaibi at a workshop on “Females As Entrepreneurs”.’ Source.

Abu Dhabi: Empowerment, culture, and a sense of belonging are some of the reasons why Maitha Al Memari wears the traditional abaya, not because she is forced to.

Delivering a lecture as part of New York Abu Dhabi’s (NYUAD) TEDx event, Maitha, an Emirati female student at NYUAD addressed some of the misconceptions surrounding the abaya and why Emirati women wear it.

Maitha acknowledged some of the negative perceptions that come with wearing an abaya, but was insistent that when it comes to the Emirati context, wearing the abaya has nothing to do with oppression or being forced to do so.

Abayas represented adulthood for me, I only started wearing the abaya on a daily basis around three years ago, and it made me feel like a grown elegant Emirati woman. The abaya gives me a sense of home, and a sense of belonging. A meaning many people associate the abaya with is a form of oppression, it oppresses women, and disables their freedom of speech. The abaya is also seen as limiting an individual’s expression of personality. Although that might be the truth in some cases, it is not the case in every context, and in the Emirates the abaya liberates and unifies women”…

They look awfully uncomfortable to me: it must very hot there and the dress covers everything but their face and hands, in addition to being pitch black, that absorbs heat.

I am unconvinced, while noticing that the men always wear white.