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Kuwaiti women: a tale of adversity, triumph

Professor of social work at Kuwait University (KU) Dr Hayfa Al-Kandari and Political science professor at KU Dr Hanan Al-Hajeri
Professor of social work at Kuwait University (KU) Dr Hayfa Al-Kandari and Political science professor at KU Dr Hanan Al-Hajeri

KUWAIT: 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

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