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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.