Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Women of the Arabian Gulf: Most educated, least Heard | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Arab Gulf is amidst heated discussions and hasty actions for and against the rights of women. It is worthy of mention that the disparities in this issue are not restricted to the field of comparison between Gulf countries, but leads to complex contradictions within the same country. For example, if we look at Kuwait, it has the oldest constitutional experiment from among the Gulf States where a woman became the president of a university and another was appointed as an ambassador, but at the same time, it is the same country where women lost their battle to gain the right to vote and run in general elections. Kuwait expects several battles to come on this front.

Meanwhile, Oman in the far south has the largest governmental presence of women among Gulf nations. Despite the fact that it has the highest illiteracy rate among women in the Gulf, Oman has three women ministers, six women members of the State Council, two women in the elected Shura Council and two women in the Municipal Council.

As for Saudi women, who in turn lost their battle in the municipal elections but won the right to vote in their respective Chambers of Commerce elections, have not really taken any political post higher than that of ”Deputy Minister” which was taken in 2000 by Princess Jawhrah Bint Fahd Bin Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud when she was appointed as Deputy Minister of Education. On the other hand, a development was made on private and economical levels when lubna Al-Olayan was appointed as a member of the board of directors of the Saudi-Dutch Bank and became the first Saudi women to be appointed in such a position.

In Bahrain, despite the unconditional opening for female participation in the last municipal elections and the running of about 34 women, none of them won. At the same time the low rate of illiteracy in Bahrain, which amounts to 11% of the population, is grabbing attention along with its 14 all-female organizations that aim at becoming political parties in the near future. As for the Emirates, the most prominent event was the recent appointment of Lubna Al-Qassemi as Minister of Planning and Economy. It is also noteworthy that Sheikhah Fatimah Bint Mubarak the wife of late Sheikh Zayed declared six years ago that as a step towards full membership, women could be appointed as observers in the Federal National Council. Meanwhile, the state has gone a long way in job equality so there is no discrimination against women in the job market. A great achievement, that is worthy of global recognition.