Emirati Women's Day: In conversation with d3's Khadija Al Bastaki
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Khadija Al Bastaki from d3 on the growing role of Emirati women in the creative sector

Khadija Al Bastaki from d3 on the growing role of Emirati women in the creative sector

The executive director of d3 advises women to look critically at the world around them, at the way things are done, made and experienced, and then challenge themselves to enhance them

Khadija Al Bastaki, Executive Director of Dubai Design District (d3)

What does Emirati Women’s Day mean to you?
Emirati Women’s Day means recognising the incredible power, capability and accomplishments of Emirati women. From mother’s raising tomorrow’s leaders, innovators and thinkers to starting our own businesses, contributing to the economy, making impact in professional spheres and building upon our cultural heritage, Emirati women play an essential role in defining the history and future of our nation.

It is why this year’s theme ‘Inspiring Reality…Sustainable Future’ resonates so deeply. It echoes the country’s spectacular strides in female empowerment and gender equality over the last five decades, which have made it possible for Emirati women to achieve remarkable milestones and leave lasting impact.

What has been your role in empowering Emirati women?
I have held various leadership positions throughout my career, including my current role as the Executive Director of Dubai Design District (d3). I believe that when you hold positions of influence, it is your responsibility to extend those opportunities and mentorship that helped you grow to other women.

As an Emirati woman, I feel we have double the responsibility of encouraging young Emirati women to explore more diverse careers, especially in the private sector.  At d3, we are continually seeking ways to elevate our diverse community of entrepreneurs, professionals and students. Our creative community is home to dozens of Emirati woman-led companies, and we continue working to optimise our creative platform to enable an increasingly diverse collection of businesses and brands.

What do you see is the growing role of Emirati women in the creative sector?
We come from a rich culture and heritage which remains an integral part of our identity. Emirati creatives are introducing that rich history into contemporary forms of design, whether fashion, jewellery, interior design and architecture, so that Arab culture can touch a greater, global audience. For instance, multidisciplinary designer Aljoud Lootah opened a studio in our district where she creates modern furniture, products and jewellery that echo local heritage.

Another example is Maha Al Bwardy who launched an architectural firm which has designed critically hailed restaurants, hotels, retail and residential units across the UAE and in Riyadh, Manila and more. There are so many ways Emirati women are claiming their space in the design sector and contributing heavily to the Dubai Creative Economy Strategy set by our leadership. It is really inspiring to witness and be a part of.

In your capacity as the executive director of d3, what would be your advice to young Emirati women starting out in the creative sector?
Rethink the regular: Look critically at the world around you, at the way things are done, made and experienced, and challenge yourself to enhance them. Be confident in that what you have to offer is unique and valuable, and always be willing to adapt in the face of new hurdles – flexibility in both creativity and business is key. One thing I have also learned is that partnerships are essential – if you come across people or brands that match your values and ambitions, explore ways to partner, collaborate and innovate to double your impact.

Who has been your inspiration to date?
Over the years, I’ve met many extraordinary Emirati women who have inspired me, but if I have to choose one person it would be Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, president of the UAE Gender Balance Council and president of Dubai Women Establishment. She has played a tremendous role in empowering women by ensuring that they are well-represented in all socio-economic spheres.

Looking to the future, what are your hopes for Emirati women
My hope is to continue to see Emirati women making their mark on a global scale for their creativity, innovative spirit and business acumen, creating an impact the world can experience. From designing beautiful abayas for the modern Arab woman to original furniture, food concepts, art and jewellery, we have such talented women among us whose creative intuition, technical skill and innovative spirit are inspiring others.

At d3, our vision is to complement their journey to world renown by creating an ecosystem that offers a regional creative community with state-of-the-art infrastructure and services to improve ease of doing business while bridging their access to potential partnerships, investment and audiences.

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