News

    Arab Women Gaining Rights in Gulf States

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Arab women in the Gulf States have made small but notable gains in the past five years, according to a new Freedom House study of women's rights in the region. The nongovernmental organization conducts studies and creates programs to promote freedom and democracy around the world.

    The title of the new Freedom House study sums up its major finding. It's called "Gaining Ground: Women's Rights in the Arab Gulf." Senior researcher Sanja Kelly says it updates a similar study the organization conducted five years ago in Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

    Kelly says the results of the study were quite encouraging.

    "Even though this is still perhaps the most restrictive region in the entire world in terms of women's rights, we are noticing that women's rights activists have successfully pressed for change in many instances."

    Women in Kuwait make significant gains


    Some of the most visible changes for women, Kelly notes, have been made in Kuwait. Women there, she says, have gained many more rights and opportunities in terms of their economic empowerment.
     
    "We have seen 5 percent improvement in terms of working women in Kuwait. In 2003, only 46 percent of working women were employed, whereas now 51 percent of working women in Kuwait are employed."

    Kuwaiti women have also made significant political gains. In 2005, after a three-decade-long struggle, Kuwaiti women finally won the right to vote.

    Dr. Lubna Al-Kazi is a professor of sociology at Kuwait University and a key activist in her country's women's rights movement. In her section of the Freedom House report, she says getting the right to vote was a big accomplishment for the women of Kuwait.

    "There's so much that has been done as far as having a women's committee, women now as ministers in the municipal council, which is also very important," she says. "So you've seen that representation has increased after we got the right. Laws - some laws - have been put on hold or even revoked when we have lobbied enough, and I'm sure if we didn't have the voice we wouldn't have been able to do that."

    Running for office in Oman, limited voting in UAE

    Oman is another Gulf country where women have recently achieved basic rights according to journalist Rafiah Al-Talei. She notes that despite ongoing discrimination, Omani women have still managed to make gains in higher education, the work force and the political arena. She herself was a candidate for Oman's Parliament in 2003 and lost by only 100 votes.

    "It was [a] very empowering experience for myself and also for other women who were encouraged for [the] next time, too," she says. "We were only 15 women candidates in the entire country in 2003, and there were 20 women who ran for the next elections."

    Women in other countries, notably Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, are also enjoying new rights, says Sanja Kelly.

    She says that while women in the UAE are still very restricted in terms of their political rights and civil liberties, the country has introduced a very limited voting process where women, for the very first time, were allowed to vote for elected bodies in the Federal National Council.

    Women still fighting for basic rights in Saudi Arabia

    Despite these gains, the contributors to the Freedom House report conclude that much more progress is needed for women in practically all aspects of social, economic and political life in the Arab Gulf states.

    This is especially true in Saudi Arabia, where women are still fighting to receive basic rights.

    Dr. Eleanor Doumato, a widely published expert on the country, says that while women in Saudi Arabia have made some progress over the past five years, they still have a long way to go.

    "At the end of 2007, the longstanding bans on women checking into hotels alone and renting apartments on their own were lifted by royal decree, and at the same time a woman-only hotel was opened in the far, far outskirts of Riyadh, but women still have to produce a guardian's permission before they can board a flight for international travel."

    In terms of judicial rights, Dr. Doumato said that despite repeated announcements of judicial reforms, access to justice "remains a problem for both men and women, but it's a bigger problem for women."

    Doumato added that women "still don't have the right to drive a car."

    But despite continuing inequalities, Sanja Kelly says she remains hopeful.

    "Overall, we do see a lot of discrimination and unequal treatment. However, we are pleased and encouraged with the progress that has been achieved so far, and we hope that women's rights activists - now that they have gained momentum - will have tools and opportunities to push for further reform."

    While the new Freedom House report focuses on women in the Gulf States, Kelly points out that women's rights issues merit attention far beyond that region. Part two of her report, which will focus on women's rights in the Middle East and Africa, is scheduled to be released this fall.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora