‘Strong indication number of women in parliament to fall’ 2012 election media center organizes seminar

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 15: Kuwaiti women have proven they are able leaders in political, civil and social arenas although there are strong indications the number of women in parliament will decrease in the next National Assembly, say women political activists.

Dr Moudhi Al-Humoud and Dr Khadija Al-Mahmid said Sunday, at a seminar organized by the 2012 Elections Media Center, that the depressive political atmosphere and negative assessments by voters has led to the pessimistic view that women are unable to fulfill their duties in parliament. They urged voters to assess the political and civil competencies and qualifications of female former MPs and current candidates.

It is unfortunate, however, that the society is using a gender-based statistical assessment by assuming women are under-qualified because the number of women contesting in the upcoming election is significantly smaller than the number of men, they added. Only 24 candidates among 344 are women.
Dr Al-Humoud, who is a former minister of education and higher education, further said women in cabinet have been positively received by their male counterparts and, based on experience, women’s work at the legislative authority has also been appreciated.

“As a minister I have received tremendous support from HH the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and have found an encouraging atmosphere. At the parliament, there were a small number of MPs who targeted the cabinet as a whole regardless of the ministers’ gender. But I still felt the appreciation of women,” she said.

Al-Humoud explained that women’s consistent presence in public society and professional environments for around 60 years has brought them their rights as they comprise more than half of Kuwaiti society. According to statistics by the Ministry of Interior, the total number of female voters in all five electoral constituencies is 215,300 (54 %).

In May 2005 the Kuwait woman was finally granted the right to run for office and in 2009 four were elected for parliament by the will of the people not through quota standards. Therefore, it will be a shame that more than half of Kuwait’s society continue to be inaccurately represented in parliament, said Al-Humoud.

“It is a mistake therefore to feel pessimistic about women reaching leading positions as they have an influencing voice regardless of their affiliations,” she added.

On her part, Dr Khadija Al-Mahmid, who is chairman of the Equality for the Kuwaiti Woman Commission, said that women’s role in politics is slowly but surely progressing. She stressed that if women in the past parliament were assessed based on their performance, voters would surely comprehend the necessity of female MPs.

Al-Mahmid explained that all four women were members of parliament committees and had a significantly higher attendance record than men at parliament sessions and committee meetings. They also interacted more with civil societies to assess the needs of the public, which is a large part of parliament work.

On the men’s side however, they were more visible and outspoken through the media. This led to the false perception that they fought more for society’s needs.

The political activist added that it was unfortunate that the negative political atmosphere did not allow for significant accomplishments, but that is no reason to disqualify women in parliament. She said that practical legislative accomplishments require a stable political environment.

“Furthermore, women did not participate in primary elections and very few participate in corruption activities in the work sectors. This is a very positive aspect in women’s regard. Unfortunately, as the male mentality still dominates society today, it may take two to three years to witness a significant increase in women taking leadership positions,” she concluded.

By: Nihal Sharaf

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