Why aren’t women elected to parliament?

By Sahar Moussa

Across five electoral districts in Kuwait, 395 candidates competed for the 50 seats in parliament last Saturday. Thirty-three of the candidates were women – the highest number of female candidates in Kuwait’s history since women were granted the right to vote and run for office in 2006. Out of 567,694 eligible voters, 273,940 were male (48.3 percent) and 293,754 female (51.7 percent), according to official interior ministry statistics.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, voter turnout was impressive this year. However, not one woman candidate managed to win a seat in Abdullah Al-Salem hall.
These numbers raise the question of why not one woman was able to make it to the parliament-despite the fact that female educational achievement now surpasses that of men in many fields.

Is it because we are living in a male-dominated society, where men are still viewed as more capable to manage, take the right decisions and lead? While women are thought to belong to the kitchen and are seen as housewives? Or is it because of previous experiments where women did not prove that they were capable of changing or adding anything in the parliament? Did female candidates fail to spread awareness to female voters that they are capable to speak up for their rights?

Unfortunately, throughout history, women are constantly obliged to work and toil harder in order to prove themselves and earn their place in governance, in business, in science, in academia, in every realm of public life. Women in male-dominated environments face more challenges to make their voices heard, gain acceptance in leadership roles and be recognized for their expertise.

Regrettably, there is a belief that female candidates need to live up to a higher standard compared to their male rivals to prove themselves to be considered worthy, which is totally unfair to women and puts extra pressure on them. Why do women have to be compared to be recognized and not be simply elected based on their merits and qualifications?

However, what happened in this election proved that women did not have only men to convince about their competencies. Unfortunately, they need to convince their fellow women first in order to win. This proves that women do not trust each other. Women need to put their faith in each other to be heard. After all, who is better to talk about a woman’s struggle and injustice and inequality in society better than a woman, and stand up for her? Women should rejoice other women when they see them succeed and prosper, and not the other way around.

Women should empower and support each other and celebrate every woman’s achievements and strength. Historically, women have seen each other as competitors for scarce resources (male support). But nowadays women are more than capable of building their own lives, businesses and communities. It is time we started supporting and trusting each other.

I am not trying to say that women are better than men or vice versa, as each have their own role in society to maintain the balance in this world. Women tend to be empathetic, more collaborative and transformational. Women should not give up and must have more of a presence in the parliament in the future. Maybe this year was not a lucky one, but hopefully they will achieve more success in the future.

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