Bahrain women MPs set to make difference as parliament reconvenes

October 8, 2011
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In a rare public display of emotions, Al Beloushi (C) celebrates with Sawsan (L), Somayya (second from right) and Ebtisam (R). Amal Abul (second from right), the head of the City Centre polling station, joins in the celebrations - BNA

First there was Lateefa, a financial expert. Five years later, Sawsan, a sports specialist joined her, two weeks ahead of Ebtisam, an engineer and Somayya, a doctor.

Today, they form the golden quartet that will take the voices, and aspirations, of women into the lower chamber of the bicameral parliament.

As the parliament reconvenes on Sunday following the summer recess, all eyes will be on the quartet as history is being made.

For the first time since parliamentary elections were held in 2002, more than one woman will be present at the 40-member lower chamber. The road has been singularly thorny and particularly challenging for them.

Lateefa Al Gaood narrowly lost in 2002, but overcame the bitter feeling and ran again in 2006. She won after no competitor challenged her bid in the Southern Constituency. In 2010, winning was also easy for her in the absence of challengers. But, no other woman could carry her constituency.

In 2011, Al Wefaq, the largest bloc pulled out its 18 representatives, all men, and by-elections were required.

Al Wefaq boycotted them, and the other two religious societies said that they would not field candidates. Too busy licking their wounds from the heavy downfall in the October 201o polling.

Women saw the absence of the three top religious societies as an opportunity not to be missed and nine signed up their names, ready to take on the formidable social challenges and the bitingly harsh criticism of those who called for the boycott of the elections.

Sawsan Al Taqawi in early September was declared winner after her opponents pulled out of the race. She was the first Shiite woman to reach the lower chamber in Bahrain’s modern history.

On September 24, three women won enough votes to move to the second round. Two of them, Ebtisam Hijris and Somayya Al Jowder, made history by becoming the first women to be voted in a parliament in the Gulf. The victory through the ballot box made the triumph more glorious.

The three elated newcomers celebrated the evening the results were announced by the justice minister with great fanfare, joined by Fatima Al Beloushi, the minister of human rights and social development, one of the two women with portfolios in the government.

Fatima Salman, the woman who led the breakthrough in the municipal elections by winning a seat in Muharraq in 2010, had also time for more glory before setting out to work in a demanding field.

The upper chamber whose 40 members are appointed has 11 women.

Bahrain has had several women diplomats and three of its top embassies are run by women. Huda Noono is the ambassador in Washington, the only Jewish top envoy from an Arab country, while Alice Samaan, a Christian, is the top diplomat in London. Bibi Al Alawi, a veteran diplomat, is the head of the Bahraini mission in Beijing.

Shaikha Haya Bint Rashed Al Khalifa was the first Arab and Muslim woman to chair the United Nations General Assembly when she was voted for the position in 2006.

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/bahrain/bahrain-women-mps-set-to-make-difference-as-parliament-reconvenes-1.887965

         

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About the author

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

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