By Majd Othman
KUWAIT: Kuwait Economic Society celebrated Kuwaiti Women Day on Tuesday to mark May 16, 2005, the day Kuwaiti women were granted their political rights to vote and to run in elections. The society celebrated by holding a seminar that included a number of high-profile women activists, personalities and senior leaders. The seminar discussed the challenges Kuwaiti women faced in getting their rights, and how they managed to overcome them, in addition to reviewing the history of Kuwaiti women’s struggles.
Kuwait’s first female minister Dr Maasouma Al-Mubarak said Kuwaiti women have always struggled to obtain their rights, even after they succeeded in getting their political rights, which were implemented six years after amending the first article of the election law. Mubarak stressed that despite the struggle, women are still working on many laws until today that need to be amended or implemented.
Regarding Kuwaiti women’s achievements, the former minister pointed out women still haven’t got enough chances, pointing out that over 18 years, only 14 women succeeded in entering the National Assembly and only 27 women were appointed as ministers. She concluded by saying that Kuwaiti women need to be supported by laws, spreading more awareness about their rights and the importance of their voice in developing the country.
Founder and Head of the Women’s Studies and Research Center at the College of Social Sciences at Kuwait University Dr Lubna Al-Qadhi said women must be optimistic and aware that choosing the right candidate in elections must be by her free choice, and to correctly evaluate the candidate, whether male or female, through their actual achievements. “Doubting the role of women doesn’t benefit anyone, and it affects the quality of women’s rights. Women achieved a lot during the previous years, but they need the support of all society members, including the new generations,” she said.
Former member of the Municipal Council and Vice President of the Business and Professional Women Network Maha Al-Baghli said Kuwaiti Women Day is one of the most important days due to the great achievements that have been achieved. She said people have started to forget this date, and everyone who supports women’s rights must revive this memory.
Baghli said despite the successes, society still supports men more. She pointed out that when she was a member at the Municipality, she was struggling to prove herself as a woman, and was surprised that women in her workplace weren’t treated equally with men in the matter of basic rights, such as the VIP passport that used to be for men only in her position.
Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Women’s Cultural and Social Society Lulwa Al-Mulla spoke about the pioneering role played by the society in obtaining women’s electoral rights, stressing the importance of the civil society in supporting women to reach high positions. She also reviewed the history of the female university students in Kuwait during the eighties, and how they succeeded to turn to another level of socialization in political life despite the rejection they faced at that time.
Member of the Economic Development Committee of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development Engineer Sara Akbar spoke about how it is important to women in all positions to fight for their rights to choose the jobs they want to be specialized in. She recalled her journey in joining Kuwait Petroleum Company and working in oilfields while these positions were only for men, saying she had the support of her male manager. “It always needs the courage of a man to take the decision and open a door for a woman,” she said.
General Manager of the Human Resources Department at Gulf Bank Salma Al-Hajjaj said empowering women and enhancing their leadership role requires more flexibility in dealing with them and taking into account their social and family conditions by policy makers in various institutions. She said that women themselves must be ambitious, persistent and confident in their leadership and abilities to reach their career development goals.
She indicated that institutions in the private sector are keen to provide equal employment opportunities for both sexes, so that 50 percent are women and 50 percent are men. “However, after a while and as a result of social conditions, we find the balance has tilted in favor of men, and the ratio became 90 percent men and 10 percent women,” she said.
Hajjaj noted the establishment of a work environment based on equality in which women are supported and empowered will achieve more innovation and success, and make the work culture healthier, which helps the progress of society and reflects positively on the labor market and the future. She said supporting and empowering women is a long-term commitment at Gulf Bank, stressing the importance of working to promote gender equality and empowering women to add to their full potential, which contributes to supporting the economic development of society.