Noted, “Change Comes to Kuwait”
June 3, 2009 by corbinhiar
This is the section lead in the magazine this week. Even though it’s hidden behind the subscriber wall, most of it shows up here. That said, you can also read about these ground-breaking ladies and comment on their achievement below.
From L-R: Aseel al-Awadi, Massouma al-Mubarak, Rola Dashti, Salwa al-Jassar
As six years of turmoil in Iraq have clearly demonstrated, the transition to democracy in the Persian Gulf can be painfully slow. The United Arab Emirates, home to the Gulf’s financial capital, Dubai, limits women’s suffrage to a few hundred state-nominated electors, while US ally Saudi Arabia still denies women the right to vote. Until four years ago the same was true of Kuwait, where men have had the right to vote since shortly after the nation was granted independence from Britain nearly half a century ago.
Universal suffrage came to Kuwait in 2005, and after three contests in which no women were elected, four were voted into the Gulf’s oldest elected parliament on May 17. Massouma al-Mubarak, who had previously been appointed Kuwait’s first female cabinet member, and Salwa al-Jassar and Aseel al-Awadhi, both university lecturers, join women’s rights activist Rola Dashti in the fifty-member National Assembly. All four hold doctorates from US universities, and two, Awadhi and Dashti, do not wear Islamic headscarves.
The election results included a further bit of good news for the million women who live in Kuwait: the Islamic fundamentalist bloc, which opposes women’s suffrage and right to run for office, saw its share of seats in parliament decrease. Indeed, the day after the voting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her commencement address at Barnard College, described the historic elections as “a major step forward for Kuwait, the region and, I would argue, the world.”
Picture credit: Kuwait-Ra’ed Qutena (via Flickr)