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Challenges to Kuwaiti Women

From today’s Kuwait Times

Kuwaiti women continue to face challenges
Published Date: March 19, 2009
By Velina Nacheva, Staff writer

KUWAIT: The notion of role segregation, where women play a pivotal role in the private sphere and men play an important role in the public sphere, is destructive to society, Kuwaiti women activists argued.

Dr Masouma Al-Mubarak, Kuwait’s first female Cabinet minister and Dr Rola Dashti, an economic expert and former candidate for the National Assembly elections last year, addresses a pack of students, professors, guests and journalists at a lecture called “Women’s Experience in Kuwaiti Politics” on Tuesday evening. The lecture, which was hosted by the Gulf Studies Center at the American University of Kuwait, was held on the occasion of International Women’s Day which is marked on March 8th.

Al-Mubarak, professor of political sciences at Kuwait University, was sworn into office as the Minister of Planning and Administration in 2005 – only a month after women in Kuwait received their political rights and were able to run for office. Al-Mubarak’s discussion was premised on the idea that women’s contributions in any society are pivotal to the democratic process in the country.

“It is a fact that the development process, be it economic, political or social, cannot be achieved fully without the full participation of dedicated men and women of any society,” she said.

Taking the point further, she argued that participation and involvement of more and more citizens in the decision-making process lies at the fulcrum of any strong democracy. To explore this premise she further argued that women’s statuses were affected by the social customs, traditions, limited facilities, technical and vocational training, limited employment opportunities and discriminatory laws. She canvassed the opinion that such a host of factors has hindered the efforts to integrate women into administering the development process of Kuwait or any other country for that matter.

By the same token, she asserted that women are close “to pay[ing] a higher price for social customs and tradition which have a stronger effect to them.” She further dwelled on the argument that women’s roles in their society has been affected mostly by the lack of political commitment to improve their status.

The social customs and traditions have played a major role in hampering the advancement of women,” Al-Mubarak observed. In her words, through women’s roles in the business, government, education, science and art fields, women are advancing the process of democratization and societies through the educated and empowered women, who she says are vital to achieve sustainable development and democracy in all countries. She eloquently summed up her argument by saying that “No society can prosper when women do not contribute to its progress.

There is a national consensus that although there are differences from one society to another, very few women are involved in politics and even fewer run for elected offices. A confluence of factors contributes to this status quo.

Al-Mubarak explored the issue further, saying, “Our participation in the government and the political process can help strengthen democracy and encourage greater tolerance.” In her words, holding a political office is not the only form of leadership following. “We can and should contribute our talents and experiences in all kinds of professions and volunteer work,” she concluded.

Dashti, a vocal proponent for women’s rights and a renowned political activist, expressed an identical opinion reflecting on the societal need of a paradigm shift, arguing that the public sphere is no longer a male-dominated realm. She construed the ideological definition of polarization in society that comes as a result of segregating the roles of men and women. We need to settle this debate in order to move on, she enthused.

Speaking from the school of experience on the political arena, Dashti said prior to women’s enfranchisement in Kuwait, she felt like “a number in a census” being unable to vote for the candidate who, she says, would develop her nation. On a positive note, she recalled that “Dreams come true… Society does change but it needs determination and persistence.

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March 19, 2009 Posted by | Kuwait, Living Conditions, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

Discouraging Sunrise 19 March 2009

When I got up this morning, my heart sank. It is not a glorious sunrise, it isn’t even one of Kuwait’s silvery sunrises, but a very very grey sunrise.

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The Germans have a word “smutzich” (I may not have spelled that right) that means dirty, filthy, covered with grime . . . and the sunrise reminds me of that, it is grimy . . . and discouraging. That thin layer of yellow, whatever it is, is closer.

Weather Underground says the entire week will be clear:

00wea19mar09

But it amends that forecast with what is happening right now:

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It might be a cloud, but what a grimy cloud! I hate to think that we breathe that air!

March 19, 2009 Posted by | ExPat Life, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Weather | 6 Comments