Media urged to support women candidates in elections

September 20, 2010

A Bahraini who tried twice to win a seat in the lower chamber has blamed the media for not providing enough support to women candidates.

“The media were not fair towards women in 2002 and 2006,” Shahzalan Khamees, a lawyer, said. “The press was obviously under the influence of specific political groups and focused on them while ignoring women. In fact, the attention devoted to political groups was so overwhelming that independent candidates and women were sidelined,” she told a training workshop hosted by Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) and the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The three-day workshop seeks to boost journalists’ skills in covering elections and women’s issues.

Shahzalan, a political activist, said that women needed to express their opinions and the media should not ignore them.

“Women have a wide spectrum of views on policies and should have the right to express them. They already have to face a formidable task as they confront forces that seek to pull them down back they want to move forward,” she said.

Most political societies, and particularly Islamist formations, failed to support women in the 2002 and 2006 elections.

“Islamist societies abused religion in their election campaigns, misinterpreting Quranic verses for self-serving purposes and employing them to make people vote in their favour. The also used a sordid interpretation of religion to ban the participation of women in elections as voters and candidates,” Shahzalan said.  

The former candidate said that Islamists have overlooked the fact that Islam prohibited moral, mental and physical abuses of women and called for treating them with dignity.

“Women have a long struggle and they should have the support of the media. I am still waiting to see political societies push towards the political empowerment of women, and I believe the media can help with women’s issues,” she said.

None of the women candidates in the 2002 elections won a seat despite heavy campaigning. In 2006, only Lateefa Al Gaood won after she ran unopposed in her constituency. She also won the 2010 elections more than one month before they are held on October 23 after no candidate challenged her quest for a new term.

Muneera Fakhroo, from Waad, Bahrain’s largest liberal society, was narrowly beaten in the second round by Salah Ali, an Islamist candidate. She is running in the 2010 elections, alongside two candidates from her society.

None of the three religious-political societies dominating the 40-seat lower chamber thanks to their 32 combined MPs has nominated or supported a woman candidate.

Al Wefaq and Al Menbar said that they could not field a woman amid concerns about not securing sufficient votes to enable her to win. Al Asala, the Salafi formation, said that it did not believe in women getting actively involved in a demanding political process.

Bahrain’s upper chamber whose 40 members are appointed by the king has ten women.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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