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Tuesday , October 20 2020

How Kuwaiti media deals with women’s issues – II

This is the second and concluding part of Kuwait Society for Human Rights report that monitored media coverage of women’s issues during the last third of 2019. — Editor

For example, on October 24, 2019, the BBC chose Dr. Alanoud Alsharekh as one of 100 inspiring and influential women in the world during 2019, as one of 17 Arab women who were chosen in appreciation of their role and contributions in various fields(15).

However, many local media outlets only published the news as a quote from the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), except for a brief statement published in Al-Qabas newspaper (16) and a telephone intervention in the Kuwait Nights program on Channel One(17).

Otherwise, it was not celebrated as a Kuwaiti achievement made by a woman, despite the interest of the political leadership in the event and the sending of congratulatory telegrams to Dr. Alsharekh from His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabahmay God protect him(18), and His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad and His Highness the former Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak, in addition to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Marzouq Al-Ghanim (19). On December 10, 2019, Dr. Ghadeer Al-Fandi won the International Project Management Award for her academic research carried out in the United Kingdom for a research entitled “Investigating the risk management capabilities of construction companies in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries”.

Her research contributed to the study and analysis of construction institutions and projects in the GCC region through surveys and case studies(20). Her winning came out of 202 participant researches worldwide(21), and despite that, the media only reported the news of the winning, with the exception of a single newspaper interview on 30th of December (22).

On the other hand, the local media highlighted the achievements of Kuwaiti women. On November 13, 2019, Kuwaiti inventor Sarah Borji managed to qualify for the Seoul International Exhibition of Inventions in South Korea with a nomination from the General Secretariat of theCooperation Council, for the creation of a device that reveals fractures in children without the need for radiation(23) . On the 29th of the same month, she won a gold medal for her invention for the first time in Kuwait and the Gulf countries (24) . The media has paid attention to this achievement, as it was highlighted from the moment of the announcement of its qualification to the exhibition events.

She was hosted by Al-Qabas on the 13th of November(25), Kuwait TV on 19th of November(26) and in a number of media outlets, and even after the announcement of its winning, the media continued to talk about her achievement(27). It is worth noting that the project was worked on by Shumukh Al Failakawi, Sarah Borji, Kawthar Al-Majadi and Sarah Al-Omran (28). Media Coverage of Women’s Achievements During the reporting period from October 1 to December 31, 2019, Kuwaiti women have achieved a number of outstanding achievements both domestically and internationally, and we have monitored their achievements based on what has been published in both official and unofficial media.
• Through a process of monitoring this coverage, we noted the following: • A lot of news is the process of transferring material from other media without making special coverage of what has been achieved
• The technical form of coverage depends mainly on the first source of the information carrier, which is usually quoted by the Kuwaiti News Agency (KUNA) or other media outlets that deal with an issue, including the material being transmitted as it was conducted, and sometimes it is converted into a short text news
• The media does not rely on (articles, cartoons, investigations, and surveys) on its media coverage of achievements
• There is a dearth of press interviews with personalities, where 3 interviews were conducted with only two women, although it is assumed that the interviews are the most prominent coverage to highlight the achievements, some of which have achieved an important international position for Kuwait
• The media mostly rely on news coverage and sometimes on expanded news that includes statements for a number of interested parties, which we have called a report, which is in fact not an integrated report, but it is closer to the expanded news coverage. “Al-Qabas” was the most popular media outlet for women›s issues

Women-Related Events
During the reporting period, many activities related to women were active in Kuwait, especially as the period coincided with international events for women.
The United Nations has designated the 25th of November of eachyear as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence againstWomen, which comes as a result of discrimination against women in law or in practice or as a result of continued inequality between men and women. The UN considers that every discrimination is violence, and violence is a crime that this generation has practiced against women in general and is constantly working hard to get rid of it in all its forms. On the same day, 25th of November, a 16-day global campaign for violence against women will be launched and will run until the 10th of December each year under the theme “Unite to Eliminate Violence Against Women”.

This year, the campaign dedicated the theme of the Union to eliminate violence against women in the workplace. In addition, the period witnessed the International Day for Women Human Rights Defenders, which falls on 29th of November each year. Perhaps the most prominent events that were implemented on this occasion are the following: The Ninth and Annual Regional Conference for Women: It was hosted by Kuwait from November 11 to 13 under the auspices of Minister of State for Economic Affairs, her Excellency Maryam Al-Aqeel and in cooperation between the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development and the Center for Women›s Studies and Research at Kuwait University, the United Nations Development Program and the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Authority.

They are the sponsors of the project to support Kuwait in implementing the fifth sustainable development goal on gender equality. The paper and electronic media dealt with the conference by covering its hosting as well as conveying some of the statements. We did not notice the presence of press interviews with the personalities who attended the conference from outside Kuwait and who are interested in women’s work. However, the media quoted a number of statements that are mainly quoted by the Kuwait News Agency KUNA, perhaps the most prominent of which is the statement of Minister Aqeel, who said that the conference came in line with the vision of His Highness the Emir of Kuwait and in response to the realization of Vision 2035 and the development plan for the new Kuwait.

The Kuwait News Agency highlighted that the conference is a project that provides an innovative platform for strengthening local cadres and institutions to implement the 2030 Agenda, especially with regard to the fifth goal of the Sustainable Development Goals on gender equality, as well as applying the indicators of the fifth goal in accordance with the national context.

Our Role, an online platform for women:
It was launched by a group of women leaders on the 10th of October as the first online platform that brings together women and aims to promote and develop the role of women(29).

The media did not give much importance to this event, especially since the platform is an online application that is working through lawyers, psychologists, businesswomen and journalists who have shown their willingness to help and solve the problems of their female counterparts, and will showcase women›s achievements and work in various fields. It will contain all laws concerning women.

Role of Kuwaiti women diplomats in the United Nations for security and peace:
It is a panel discussion held at the Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber al-Sabah Building – United Nations House at the invitation of the Representative of the Secretary- General of the United Nations and the United Nations Resident Coordinator to the State of Kuwait, Dr. Tariq Al-Sheikh. The event was addressed by the media, according to the Kuwait News Agency KUNA, where the agency has made extensive coverage about what happened in it. A group of Kuwaiti diplomats and representatives of international organizations on Thursday praised the great and important role of Kuwaiti women in the diplomatic service in terms of security and peace(30).

Towards a national vision to eliminate violence against women:
It is a panel discussion carried out by the Kuwaiti Society for Human Rights on November 25th in line with the 16-day campaign to eliminate violence against women, and in solidarity with the rights of women in Kuwait, during which a draft law on combating violence gainst women was submitted and a review of the results of a questionnaire conducted by the Society on gender-based violence. Although the session introduced a draft law to eliminate violence against women, the media were concerned about the results of the questionnaire, which showed that more than half of the women surveyed were subjected to violence.

Domestic Violence in Kuwaiti Society. Prevention and Solutions:
It is a panel discussion organized by the Development Office in the Office of His Highness the Prime Minister(31). This event was an opportunity for the media to re-discuss some issues related to women, particularly discrimination against them in the law, which, for example, prevents women from signing operations for their children unless they are authorized by the guardian. It also raised the issue of domestic and gender-based violence as well

Penal Code No. (153). Feminist Movement
On December 12, a professor at Kuwait University tweeted through his account on the social networking site Twitter that as part of the efforts of the Department of History and Antiquities at Kuwait University to update its tools to serve the learning process and equip a conscious generation with research tools and channels, the meeting of the Scientific Department Council approved the establishment of three specialized voluntary research units (Gulf Historical Studies Unit, European Studies Unit, Women›s Studies Unit).
He noted that the Women’s Studies Unit will follow the emergence of women’s history through different ages and link it to contemporary feminist movements historically. This area makes the History Department of Kuwait University one of the few departments that care about this type of important studies, adding that the woman who will lead this Unit is a feminist activist(32).

The term feminism has recently emerged, where it faced many comments about its content. Some attacked it severely and emptied it of its content, inferring some extremist currents and reasoning that a feminist movement cannot be established in the presence of a conservative society, while some considered its existence as essential because it liberates women from all custody or at least from the guardianship that directly restricts them and subjects them to male authority. On Twitter, there have been a number of tweets that have been monitored about the reason for the spread of feminist movements and whether it is because of injustice to women? Some responses confirmed yes?(33),” while others confirmed that no one focus on women›s rights and injustices in the laws of nationality, housing and violence(34). On November 11th, a lecture entitled “Feminism between Arabs and the West” was implemented in Kuwait, through the Kalimat platform for Culture and Creativity, during which Dr. Saad Al-Bazai delivered a lecture entitled : “Feminism is the Migration of Concepts and the Multiplicity of Contexts”, during which he said that feminism came as a social and political movement in addition to being a field of studies involving theories and concepts coming from a Western context to reach a different environment, and remained transformed according to the uses and circumstances. He pointed out that the demand of women for their rights is not the monopoly of culture or society, but rather a phenomenon known to other cultures and societies, including the Arab countries.

He said that Arab women have long demanded their rights, before they know about other claims, pointing out that he talks about a human situation required by circumstances, created by evolution, but the advent of the Western concept into Arab culture has created a new situation, which went beyond the basic claim of rights, to influence how women view their identity as female versus men, or what is today known as their gender identity(35). He said that one of the concepts that emerged is the evolution of feminist studies, and the spread of its theoretical foundations, that is the concept that is now common, i.e. gender, , which in feminist studies refers to the role of the sexual nature of man, i.e. being male or female, how to view them, cultural, social and economic biases, and even the resulting linguistic ones, ideological attitudes and other issues, issues and problems. All of these are pillars of feminist studies and related theories and attitudes, developed mainly in a European context, and then transferred to other cultures. However, their transition did not mean its survival as it is, but rather, as a whole, it comes from culture to culture.

They are subject to scrutiny, sifting and selection in deliberate or necessarily intentional processes, but are the result of environment in the new culture. This holds true for all immigrant ideas: Russian Marxism, non-Marxist, Chinese, non- French, and non-Arab, as well as with schools of literature, psychology, and sociology, even in what is known as the natural sciences(36). The lecture produced a number of reactions, which forced Al-Bazai to post a tweet on his Twitter account in which he said that his lecture was not an adoption of an issue or a defense of anyone as much as it was an intellectual discussion and a historical analysis of a multi-dimensional movement, pointing out that he believes in the rights of women and defends them, but the lecture envisaged the analytical historical aspect, not the argumentative, although there is an implicit position that is undoubtedly supportive(37).

On the other hand, specifically in New Orleans, USA, at the 53rd Annual Conference of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the largest and oldest American non-profit academic association that brings together intellectuals and researches Middle East affairs, Dr. Badr Musa Al-Seif, from the History Department of the Kuwait University, gave a lecture entitled “Religions are not Exclusively for Men”, during which he said that men have dominated the production of knowledge in Islam since the introduction of Islam, but this did not prevent the emergence of calls for better and broader empowerment of women, which allowed the emergence of a seed of what we might call Islamic feminism(38).

According to Al-Anba newspaper, he pointed out that Islamic feminism has a basic strategy of competing with the dominance of men, and fighting for equal rights between men and women, stressing that this Islamic feminist movement is witnessing a clear prosperity in the Arabian Peninsula, and that it is characterized by a plurality of interpretations on the status of women in Islam. This was mentioned in his research on a variety of Islamic feminist movements that focus on the goal of changing the nature of the relationship between men and women. There are many debates, particularly on Twitter about feminism in Kuwait, some of which are fanatic in rhetoric, whether in support or rejection, and remain controversial until they take their time, like all issues that arise on the scene.

Conclusion and Recommendations
Through the figures reviewed for women and the achievements they have achieved during the period only, we believe that the media›s handling of women›s issues is not sufficient because it is a seasonal approach on the one hand, and also because it deals with issues in passing without focusing on and raising or adopting a single issue until victory.

We therefore recommend the following:

  1. Activating the role of the media by publicizing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, through media campaigns and all visual and print media
  2. Making more efforts to overcome the difficulties that prevent omen from participating in media work and working to create a larger media space for women and not to limit media material to news coverage of their achievements or events
  3. Urging the media to present the correct and balanced image of women in a way that reflects their contribution and role in developing the development process
  4. The need of the various media outlets to adopt a clear strategy in dealing with women’s issues without limiting themselves to one part but not the other
  5. Encouraging women›s access to digital journalism, as their presence in this area is limited in terms of contribution and framing, and this field of journalism still bears male features both in its topics and methods of dealing with various issues, as well as contributors to its preparation
  6. Paper media should devote columns to women’s issues and highlight the most prominent challenges they suffer from, and work on the printing of weekly supplements on women’s issues supervised by male and female journalists specialized in this aspect

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