Bahrain women given new push by First Lady

October 10, 2012

Shaikha Sabeeka

Bahrain’s First Lady Shaikha Sabeeka Bint Ebrahim Al Khalifa has called for the implementation of recommendations to empower women and help them benefit from social advantages.

The chairwoman of the Supreme Council for Women (SCW), the official body set up to elevate the status of Bahraini women socially, politically and economically, said that a recommendation issued by SCW in 2010 called for extending the social umbrella to include Bahraini women married to foreigners.

Bahraini divorcees, widows and non-married women should also be allowed to benefit from the housing schemes offered by the state, Shaikha Sabeeka said as she chaired a meeting of the national commission to monitor the integration of women in the government action plan.

Women’s needs should be integrated in Bahrain’s development process and the gender opportunity equality units set up in some government and official establishments should be invigorated, Shaikha Sabeeka said.

According to the SCW, 14 ministries and official establishments and the two chambers of the bicameral parliament have set up special units to boost women’s chances in employment and promotion.

The units are part of a national plan to meet the needs of women employees and to bolster their contributions to the nation-building process, the council said.

Despite a very challenging environment, Bahrain is one of the most forward-looking countries in the Arab world in empowering women.

The island kingdom this year reinforced the concept that women were welcome in its politics when Samira Rajab was appointed state minister for information affairs, becoming the third woman to hold a ministerial portfolio in the government.

Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammad Al Khalifa is the culture minister and Fatima Al Beloushi is the social development minister.

The lower chamber, the Council of Representatives, whose 40 members were elected has five women while the upper chamber, the Shura Council, has 11 among its appointed 40 members.

Bahrain has three women ambassadors in major capitals. Its ambassador to the US, Houda Nonoo, a former member of the Shura Council, is a Jewish woman while the head of the diplomatic mission in the UK is Alice Samaan, a Christian woman. Bibi Al Alawi is the ambassador of Bahrain to China.

Muneera Fakhro, a political opposition figure, was the vice-president of the leftist movement Waad while Sabeka Al Najjar was the head of the Bahrain Human Rights Society.

In June 2006, Shaikha Haya Bint Rashid Al Khalifa was elected president of the 61st session of the United Nations General Assembly. She was the first Arab and Muslim woman to hold the position.

In the same month, Mona Jasem Al Kawari made history by becoming the first woman judge in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. She was appointed as a judge in the High Civil Court.

Mona, a professional lawyer, was among three women appointed to the public prosecution in 2002.



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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