UAE: Two Emirati women tap Twitter to try to delete the stereotypes

Publication Date: 
June 17, 2010
The National

ABU DHABI// Frustrated by the presumptions people made about them because of their nationality, two Emirati women are using social media to break down stereotypes.

Last November, Heba AlSamt, 26, and Hanan Huwair, 24 launched Emiratweet, an online forum aimed at uniting young Emiratis.

Now they host regular events and consider it part of their national duty to change the image expatriates have of their generation. “The small events in Dubai for networking were always being organised by expats,” Ms AlSamt said. “When I went to one, people looked at me as if I was from another planet, but I loved the atmosphere.

"I thought I wanted to create a community of Emiratis who socialised like this. All expats had social groups they belonged to, but we didn’t.”

Ms AlSamt and Ms Huwair came up with the concept of Emiratweet, a concept that began as a simple Twitter account.

They planned, once they had enough followers, to start a website and then to bring the virtual community into reality.

“At the beginning, we sat together and we had a vision,” Ms Huwair said. “We wanted to reach as many Emiratis as possible and open up a channel for them to discuss ideas and get inspired.”

Ms AlSamt added: “We also wanted to use social media to change the wrong idea others have about us.

“They think we are all spoilt and born with a golden spoon in our mouths, but we are talented and hard-working too. It’s up to us to show people the reality.”

As part of their mission to engage the young UAE nationals, the women came up with a number of initiatives.

At the first, Emiratalent, they hosted an exclusive screening of City of Life before it hit the cinemas, attended by the director, Ali Mostafa, and members of the cast.

Then, on International Women’s Day, came Emiratalks, an event that brought together female speakers from the UAE to share their achievements. These efforts were followed by Emriatreasure, a book club to help promote local literary talent, and Emiratech, an online service to help with any IT problems.

The women, who both work as IT managers in Dubai, want to inspire fellow nationals and make them more approachable to non-Emiratis.“We are a minority, and there is some sort of strange mystery surrounding us, so foreigners are intimidated to talk to us,” Ms Huwair said.

“We want to show we have our own mind and we want other people to get reliable information about what is going on within the Emirati community; who we are and what we have accomplished.”

Next weekend, the women, who now have a team of around 15 members helping to organise the events and expand the database, will host the country’s first Social Media Day.

Eventually, they hope to open a meeting place for members. But for now, they are encouraged as their following grows.

Ms AlSamt said: “Sometimes, I get shocked by how quickly it expanded. But it keeps us going. We have to keep organising events and initiatives because we know people are waiting.”