Gulf women ‘still face cultural hurdles’
Manama, March 7, 2013
Cultural issues continue to hinder women's development in Bahrain and the Gulf, according to delegates attending a major conference in Manama yesterday.
Obstacles still exist for women seeking employment and education, according to Manchester University human resources development, gender and development professor Dr Beverly Metcalfe, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN).
She said traditions, cultural norms and levels of education in the GCC were holding back large numbers of women - and called for changes in the law to promote their growth.
"Cultural practices restrict women from getting an education or even working in the private sector," she told the GDN on the sidelines of the first GCC Women Leading Change Forum yesterday.
"These issues should be addressed in terms of legislation and culture."
Although she said Bahrain was regarded as a leader in women's development in the Gulf, Dr Metcalfe added that more needed to be done.
"Cultural challenges are still present and need to be addressed, as well as legal issues," she said.
"For instance, the Supreme Council for Women (SCW) should promote more opportunities and advocate what they do to enable this even more,"
Oman's former Social Development Minister Dr Sharifa Al Yahyai said the region's legislative systems continued to favour men.
"Sadly in the Gulf, legislation gives men power over various issues, including marriage," she explained. “Woman should be citizens, not just females. Sadly we still have this view in the Gulf and it needs to be addressed."
Kuwait's Council of Arab Businesswoman president Shaikha Hessa bint Saad Al Sabah highlighted three main factors that determined the extent of gender equality.
"The first is the political leadership's stance in its directives to enable women and provide rightful resources to serve them, while the second is the nature of the society's education levels (that dictates) whether women's participation is encouraged or frowned upon," she said.
"The third is the strength of the national women's movement and how much power it has to emphasise the ability of women."
The GCC Women Leading Change Forum was held at the Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel, Residence and Spa under the patronage of the SCW.
It was organised by Golden Trust Business Consultancy and Keynotes Consultants, in partnership with the Council of Arab Businesswomen and Tamkeen.
Concern over low presence in workforce
Less than 10 per cent of Bahrainis in the workforce are women, said Bahrain Businesswomen Society president Afnan Al Zayani.
She said Bahrainis accounted for 22.9 per cent of the labour force, but of those only 8.08 per cent were women.
She urged those sitting at home to head out into the workplace and play a bigger role in society.
"We should not miss this opportunity to fill the gaps in the workplace," she told the GDN. "We want women who are educated and capable to take part and use their full potential." – TradeArabia News Service