KUWAITI WOMEN: A TALE OF AD­VER­SITY, TRI­UMPH

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

Ut­terly ded­i­cated and la­bo­ri­ous, Kuwaiti women have long sought to be on equal foot­ing with men in ef­forts to es­tab­lish a lev­eled play­ing field to help build a de­vel­oped and pros­per­ous na­tion. In the pre-oil era, women mainly han­dled house­hold chores at a time where men usu­ally went on sab­bat­i­cals due to the lengthy pearl div­ing sea­son. How­ever, in the post-oil era, women were able to as­cend to ad­min­is­tra­tive po­si­tions, where they oc­cu­pied such lofty posts as min­is­ters, direc­tors, am­bas­sadors and so forth. More­over, in the po­lit­i­cal front, women had long been de­prived of suf­frage and to run for of­fice, re­duc­ing them to mere spec­ta­tors in a coun­try with a dy­namic po­lit­i­cal scene.

Ever stead­fast and per­se­ver­ing, women were adamant to win full-fledged po­lit­i­cal rights in their quest to achieve gen­der par­ity. Af­ter an ar­du­ous strug­gle, the time to re­joice fi­nally ar­rived when on May 16, 2005, par­lia­ment unan­i­mously voted to grant women full po­lit­i­cal rights, which en­abled Ma­souma Al-Mubarak to be­come the first fe­male min­is­ter in the his­tory of the na­tion. Fur­ther­more, in an­other po­lit­i­cal mile­stone, Je­nan Boushehri an­nounced her can­di­dacy for the 2006 mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil elec­tions. Even though she failed to win a seat, Boushehri gar­nered 1,800 votes in a har­bin­ger of brighter things to come. In 2009, in a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal break­through for women, four fe­male can­di­dates won seats in par­lia­ment.

Short time

Speak­ing in state­ments yes­ter­day, pro­fes­sor of so­cial work at Kuwait Univer­sity (KU) Dr Hayfa Al-Kan­dari said that, “Women were able to at­tain their po­lit­i­cal rights in a short time as a re­sult of a groundswell of sup­port from the gov­ern­ment and the na­tion as a whole.”

Kan­dari ex­plained that women have al­ways had an “im­pos­ing pres­ence” in elec­tion sem­i­nars, not­ing that “po­lit­i­cal ac­tion is not de­pen­dent upon gen­der, as Kuwait’s par­lia­ment has al­ways been a male-dom­i­nated arena.”

On the so­cial front, the KU pro­fes­sor said that women make up half of so­ci­ety, be­ing care­tak­ers and guardians. She also spoke of how in­stru­men­tal so­cial me­dia is to fa­mil­iar­ize the elec­torate with the can­di­dates’ cam­paigns and ide­olo­gies. Sim­i­larly, po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at KU Dr Hanan Al-Ha­jeri said that it is dif­fi­cult to over­look fe­male con­tri­bu­tions in a coun­try with a highly pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­ety. “Ac­cord­ing to na­tional sta­tis­tics, Kuwaiti women are in the fore­front of GCC na­tions in terms of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties,” she said. Kuwait re­mains the only GCC na­tion with an ac­tive fe­male work­force, Ha­jeri noted, cit­ing that around 47 per­cent of gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees are women. — KUNA

Pro­fes­sor of so­cial work at Kuwait Univer­sity (KU) Dr Hayfa Al-Kan­dari

Po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at KU Dr Hanan Al-Ha­jeri

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