For Diana Hamade, the decision to become a lawyer was an easy one. Especially since her father was one of the first practising lawyers in the UAE. But what followed was a journey that showed her the many challenges faced by Arab women. Sharon Carvalho speaks to her to find out how she hopes to make a difference
How did the decision to become a lawyer come about?
My parents moved to the UAE in 1970 so I am a national of Lebanese origin. With my father’s background in law, he wanted me to study law, so I pursued it. I had childhood dreams of going into journalism and television but, in the end, I graduated from the UAE University in Al Ain with a Bachelors degree in Sharia and Law and a Masters degree in Law from Aberdeen University in Scotland.
What challenges have you faced while pursuing your career in law?
Pursuing my career in law wasn’t the hard part. Getting the degrees were not a challenge. What was a challenge was finding the area of practice in law that I wanted to specialize in. I had to find something that I excelled in and enjoyed at the same time.
How has society responded to you being a lawyer?
When I began working almost 10 years ago, it was unheard of for a woman to have her own firm. But over the years, it came to a point where many clients preferred having a female lawyer represent them. They understood that, as a female lawyer, you are always pushing yourself to stand out from the crowd and prove that we are equally good, if not better. This drive makes them trust us and trust that we will do our best no matter what it takes.
How have clients reacted to a female lawyer representing them?
As a litigation lawyer, I am always at the court or other tribunals for dispute resolution. So, when my clients watch me argue their case before the court, they are extremely grateful and impressed by what I do.
Why, in your opinion, is there a difference in the way Arab women are treated in the field of law?
When I first began my career, I published an article in which I wrote that women lawyers needed to be looked after because of the effort required to maintain a career in this field. I also wrote that long careers in law were not encouraged for the women that chose to be lawyers. But, over time, the number of women in law has grown in the UAE. There is still a disparity in the number of women that run their own firms and are partners in law firms, but we do have women public prosecutors and women judges so this is a step in the right direction.
Personally, what stories do you have to tell about being an Arab woman in law?
I love my job. I am very passionate about it. It involves people and delivering justice so I think it is the most fascinating job. But there are cases when the woman receives an unfair judgment on the grounds of laws that need to be changed, especially in the areas of family law. Situations like this make me furious. Women are still treated unfairly and laws need to be amended to give them equal rights.
What changes have you seen with regards to women being accepted in predominantly male dominated roles?
In the UAE, women are now ministers, heads of departments, lawyers, doctors and engineers. We are blessed with leaders who have a strong vision for the country and want to see the women prosper and extend their roles beyond what is expected of them.
What change would you like to see?
I would like to see women reach positions where they have the power to change laws and amend the rules and regulations. Maybe then we can provide equality to those that need it.
Specifically regarding laws that have the woman’s interest, what improvements would you like to see?
The biggest challenge to the rules and laws, and the one point that women’s support groups in the UAE keep bringing up, is family law. Laws regarding the custody of a child, a woman’s right to work without her husband’s permission, her right to marry without her father’s permission etc., are some of the many regulations that need to change. It would be great to see the necessary amendments made to the law as soon as possible so that the next generation of young women can enjoy better legal protection. Personally, I speak actively about women’s rights as much as possible.