In her words: Emirati Woman Scholar Khawla Saleh

Have you met Emirati Woman Scholar Khawla Saleh, a fellow of the Shamsa bint Mohammad Al Nahyan Fellowship in Early Childhood Development?

“I am a UAE national currently working in the capacity of an Occupational and Public Health Manager at a UAE based philanthropic organization. My educational background encompasses a BSc in Complementary Medicine from Edinburgh and an MSc in Public Health from Glasgow. I am currently completing a doctorate degree in Public Health, with a focus on Child Safety. I am a mother to two wonderful young boys, a wife to an awesome husband, and the daughter to two gregarious, remarkable parents.

“My relationship with the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation is by way of the Shamsa bint Mohamed Al Nahyan Fellowship in Early Childhood Development which I have just completed. This professional development program provided a rich and profound experience that gave me with a deeper understanding on the types of experiences and support needed to promote optimal development.

“Parents who understand children’s social and emotional needs as well as physical development are better prepared to ensure their child’s safety physically, and emotionally.”

“As my professional work encompasses working alongside parents on child safety, the Fellowship provided me the knowledge and skills to teach parents about child development and developmental milestones so they could have more realistic expectations of their children.

Emirati Woman Scholar Khawla Saleh

“I have gained invaluable tools and experience and the fellowship has been influential in shaping my career aspirations in addition to paving the path for other opportunities. As a mother of two young boys, my journey in the Fellowship has fostered an even greater bond between my boys, their father and myself.

“My project sought to understand what could be done to support working mothers to enable them to care for their young whilst also providing them resources to be effective at work.”

This was done through a survey I had developed in effort to get a better understanding of work environments, the resources employers provide new mothers, and additional resources working mothers are seeking.

“My initial interest in Public Health grew when I saw a pattern in the lack of awareness within my community in basic public health measures that seemed as standard practice elsewhere. The birth of my son in 2009 was the pivotal point of my career choice when my elders, for cultural beliefs, refused to allow me to place my child in a car seat once discharged from hospital. From then on I went on to develop, promote and implement training programs to teach parents household safety procedures and safety practices on the road.

“My interest in public health has led me to research and advocate for family-friendly workplace practices and policies, including extended family leave, breastfeeding breaks, and other supports to promote healthy child and family development and enhance productivity in the work environment.”

“My study included me surveying 84 working mothers in Abu Dhabi and it was received extremely well by both mothers and fathers. In fact more so by the women I surveyed as almost all of them had a lot of ideas about how to enhance workplace policies and practices to enable mothers to be more effective in their roles as employees as well as parents. For example, some women sought more flexible works hours upon returning to work following maternity leave, while others suggested on-site lactation rooms

Emirati Woman Scholar Khawla Saleh

“My ambition is to develop initiatives and projects which would encourage the existing behaviors within the community to divert towards better and healthy outcomes.”

I would like to assist parents by enabling them the tools, resources and basic understanding of what is needed to help their children thrive and to empower them to create a healthy and safe environment for their children.

“I have been a keen enthusiast on learning best approaches and skills when it comes to parenting. It not only helped me as a mom, but gave me confidence when assisting other parents. The fellowship was such a rewarding experience that allowed me to build on current knowledge and simultaneously support certain beliefs.

 “My message to young parents who are young learners would be on the importance of emotions. Emotions, which are as important as food, water and air, helps build relationships. It is important to help children label their emotions – what are they feeling and to try and ‘connect’ with them on that level.  Instead of responding to their behavior, try and recognize and understand what they are ‘feeling’ and respond to them with warmth and sensitivity.

“Recognizing and connecting on an emotional level will not only help parents in effectively responding to their behavior but will also help the child form a secure attachment.  Children are able to have multiple attachments at one given moment and forming secure ones will help the child develop positive relationships with peers and teach them on how to control their own emotions. Parent and child relationships are so important to help a child manage their own emotions and future challenges.”

Connect with Khawla:


Some of Khawla Saleh’s findings are:

– Out of the 84 women, only 7 have pumping rooms provided for them at work – 12 have flexi hours and 43 (50%) are given a one-hour nursing period per day.

– 63% mothers state that not working for a family friendly place is affecting their decision on expanding their family.

– 74% believe pressures on them would ease if there was a system that allows fathers share in some of the responsibilities.

– The majority say they want longer maternity leave (78%) with (69%) seeking an in-office nursery. These findings are an indication that women are interested in working whilst raising their young children.


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