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Expat wanderer

Joy in Kuwait


You might think it is the inner feminist in me that is rejoicing, and you would be only half right. The Kuwait elections brought me a lot of joy, for many reasons. First, as an equal opportunity woman, you need to know that I believe women are every bit as capable of veniality and stupidity as men, and that not being in power has only meant not having equal opportunity to abuse that power. And then – you take a look at the women who were elected – smart women. Capable women! Not-your-shy-shrinking-violet kind of women! Women who know how to organize, how to delegate, and how to discuss and resolve differences.

FOUR women! Four highly educated women, who inspired droves of supporters not only to vote – but also to campaign.

Across the board, it struck me as a very sober election. It was as if people thought this might be their last chance, and they took their vote very very seriously. In the fifth district, voters crossed tribal lines, broke with rigid alliances.

Here are three conversations that caused me to rejoice.

On election day, my good Kuwaiti friend, a guy about the same age as AdventureMan and I, leaned over and said “My dear, today I voted for a Shiite woman! This is Kuwait! This is the REAL Kuwait, where no-one ever cared, Shiite or Sunni, no-one ever asked, we all worked together. I voted for her because I thought she was the best candidate.”

He’s been educating me on Kuwait ever since we got here. He grew up about a block from the big food court down at Mubarakiyya. I was just glad to know he had voted – he had seemed so dejected, so hopeless after the last election, I wasn’t sure he would even give it one more try. Something inspired him. Something gave him the courage to hope just one more time.

I talked with a young friend who was active in the campaign of a winning candidate. Well, really mostly SHE talked, and I just listened with a big grin on my face. It doesn’t even matter who she campaigned for, this woman was PUMPED! She had committed, she had engaged, she was on the phones and on the campaign lines and her candidate won! I could hear the transformation in her voice – this is the Kuwait of tomorrow.

At an earlier time, she had told me that the decisions were all made by “elderly” people (meaning people over 40, I think, people like me!) and that young people were getting discouraged, waiting for their turn. All that was gone, as I listened to her voice. She knows she can make a difference NOW in Kuwait. I could not stop grinning. I think she is one of the leaders of tomorrow. 🙂

My third Kuwaiti friend said to me “so many of the winners were from good families, but not the big, rich families! This is the first time!” and she said it with sheer amazement. She said “I think we may be on our way to a true democracy!” I was shocked. I never thought I would hear those words, not after the cynicism and discouragement apparent during the last legislature, when many Kuwaits awoke with a shock to the fact that their legislature had been hijacked, their voices stolen. “This is not the real Kuwait” they kept assuring me after the last election, as they watched in shock and horror as the newly elected MP’s postured and promised and promised “grillings” but did nothing for the population who had elected them in terms of basics – housing, roads, electricity/energy, or groundwork for future development.

My joy is in the renewal of their spirit. It’s not my election. But oh, I dance with joy for your joy, Kuwait, and I celebrate your commitment to the future.

PS For our non-Kuwaiti readers – early in the election campaigns, one party announced a religious fatwa (edict) saying that it was forbidden to vote for women. I think it outraged people badly enough to create a huge backlash.

May 18, 2009 Posted by | Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Leadership, News, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 10 Comments