Understanding women’s empowerment

By Atyab Al-Shatti

It has been noticed that many male candidates are mentioning women’s empowerment and women in political and decision making roles in their campaigns, which is a first, since the previous parliament and the one before that, did not directly tackle women’s empowerment and might have only engaged in women’s rights issues, with regards to enabling woman to attain some ungiven rights such as health custody, equality in job opportunities, and becoming board members of cooperatives and NGOs in Kuwait. Slight approval was never a true support for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

But today we see candidate Khalid Al-Shatti tackling women’s empowerment for the first time, saying: “Constitutionally, women are granted equal rights as men, and such gender equality should be expressed through the laws. The legislative system should adopt the constitutional principles of equality, rights and dignity for everyone.” I personally know from my research that several constitutional articles were established to secure positions for men, and I would say his statement is general and needs more accuracy.

On the other hand, candidate Jasim Al-Juraied prioritized gender equality and giving women the opportunity to participate in the community equally as men, giving accurate examples with regards to the laws and resolutions that discriminate against women, such as the housing law, women passing their nationality to their children, equal job opportunities and allowances from the government.

A courageous stance was taken by a female candidate to run for elections, neglecting byelections executed in a very patriarchal community, as it is well known that any tribe member will run in byelections. The byelections of tribes are always exclusively for me, and no woman is ever involved. This is why the chances of tribal women to win in byelections are zero. It is not usual for the Kuwaiti community to see a woman of a tribe going against byelections.

What is surprising is that such a courageous step was taken by a woman, but instead of being supportive, some women claimed that the reason her calls and videos went viral is because she is wearing a tribal cultural dress with her face covered, while others claimed she is only trained to say things instead of believing in her statements.

It is still early to judge, but I believe that any candidate should be evaluated according to their priorities and agendas regardless of their gender. This is why I believe she needs to get the chance to speak out and be heard, and for the people to know her goals and what she is willing to achieve if she reaches the parliament.

Unfortunately, the last female parliamentarian neither served human rights nor the nation’s rights, nor furnished support for women or even tackled women’s empowerment efficiently. It is very disappointing to mention the huge international uproar that has occurred due to the discriminatory statements issued by her. I strongly believe that at this stage, it is crucial for male candidates to understand the concept of women’s empowerment, so they can advocate for it.

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