The disease is the 2nd most common cause of death amongst women and the most common form of cancer in the country, according to the ministry of health.
In addition to raising the profile of the disease, “we need more voices on how cancer affects lives,” says Rania Amer, the organizer of Dubai’s Pure hearts job fair- the first organization in the UAE to reintegrate cancer patients into the work environment.
Breast cancer sufferers in the region tend to “isolate themselves,” they need support in their day to day lives, which is just as crucial as medical support, Amer adds.
The job fair, which took place this week, seeks to help cancer patients get back to their working lives.
Many cancer patients and survivors wish to lead a normal life. The opportunity to work allows these people to be active part of society, which in itself will help to raise awareness, Amer told Al Arabiya.
Interested businesses are invited to set up stalls and interview cancer patients, as well as cancer survivors, for a position in their company.
She went on to note the challenge faced by professional hopefuls with cancer; many companies have given a negative response to employing this demographic.
Questions of life insurance and the uncertain life expectancy of some cancer patients have dissuaded some potential employers from taking part in the job fair.
“People are skeptical about hiring cancer patients, there is the issue of medical costs and doubt about whether they can perform on a day-to-day basis,” said the director of one business in Dubai.
There are supporters in the business world, however.
This year “we are expecting 10 companies and 35 cancer survivors to participate,” in the job fair, Amer said.
Ibrahim al-Zubi, spokesperson of the Dubai-based business Majid Al Futtaim, told Al Arabiya, “we believe that anyone with the right skill set, regardless of their medical history, deserves an opportunity to join our team.”
When asked if cancer patients would be treated equally within the workforce, al-Zubi responded, “we work with all employees to ensure that they are able to put their best foot forward, which in some situations means allowing flexibility in working hours,” indicating that facilitating measures would be put in place to ensure cancer patients and survivors a smooth transition into the world of work.
Suha Mardelli, HR director at Bayt.com, one of the largest online recruitment agencies in the Middle East, said cancer patients should have the opportunity to work undeterred.
“We need to support cancer patients by allowing them to be part of the active community,” she said.
But Mardelli said “qualifications, experience and skills are paramount when making a hiring decision. When hiring cancer patients, the bar should be equivalent to all candidates.”
Cancer patients and survivors “are fighters by nature and are fighting one of the hardest battles of life,” she said, adding that “we need to believe in them, empower them and support them.”