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How Kuwaiti media deals with women’s issues

Kuwait Society for Human Rights issues a report that monitors media coverage of women’s issues during the last third of the past year 2019. Khaled Al Hamodi, Chairman of Kuwaiti Society for Human Rights, said that the report is an activity that follows “Sisters” Observatory, which has been launched by the Society to be one of its activities within Takamul Project to promote the gender equality in Kuwaiti society, which is being executed by the Society in cooperation with the Middle East Partnership Initiative. He pointed out that that Sisters Observatory will issue a number of reports related to the media coverage of women’s issues during the year 2020, in addition to other activities accompanying thereto within the activities of Takamul Project.

The report, entitled: “Women in Kuwaiti Media, A modest Coverage of Tremendous Achievements”, has a number of recommendations that emphasized the importance of activating the role of media by introducing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and making more efforts to overcome the difficulties that prevent women from participating in Media work and not to restrict the media materials to news coverage. Below is part one of the full report — Editor

Executive Summary
The period of the report witnessed the formation of the Kuwaiti government. On December 17, 2019, the names of the Cabinet were announced and women received, for the first time in the history of Kuwait, three ministerial portfolios out of 15 ministerial seats, which represents 20 percent. It is noteworthy that the official ministerial portfolios are 22 in addition to the Prime Minister.

However, the Kuwaiti government sometimes appoints a minister to carry out the functions of two ministries. Her Excellency Mrs. Maryam Aqeel Hashim Al Aqeel was appointed as Minister of Finance and Acting Minister of State for Economic Affairs.

Moreover, her Excellency Dr. Rana Abdullah Abdulrahman Al-Fares was appointed as Minister of Public Works and Minister of State for Housing Affairs. Furthermore, her Excellency Dr. GhadeerMohammed Mahmoud Asiri was appointed as Minister of Social Affairs.

The period also witnessed the holding of events and symposiums related to women that coincided with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25th of November, as well as the 16-Day Campaign for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in addition to the International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders.

The period also witnessed multiple achievements for a number of Kuwaiti women in various fields, including sports, science and community. The period witnessed the launch of the activities of the ninth and regional annual Conference for Women in the State of Kuwait, organized by the Center for Women Studies and Research at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Kuwait University under the auspices of the General Secretariat for Planning and in cooperation with the United Nations Development Program and the UN Women.

It also witnessed the hosting of the sixth Gulf Women’s Sports Championship, in which six Gulf teams participated, competing in 11 unique and collective games, where Kuwait ranked third with 50 colored medals for women. One of the outstanding milestones during the reporting period is the return of the media figure Fajr Al-Saeed from a treatment trip abroad that lasted about 5 months, which was successful.

That was an occasion to celebrate, especially since the media had taken an interest in her treatment journey remarkably, given Al-Saeed›s position in the media, in which she was famous for her writings dealing with social issues that cause controversy. During the reporting period, a young Kuwaiti woman born in 1991 was killed. Her murder turned into a public opinion issue.

Many young people around the world tweeted about her murder and recalled incidents of violence against women in Kuwait and the related and controversial laws, particularly Article (153) of the Kuwaiti Penal Code, which many people demanded to abolish it. The media reported the news of her murder, noting that her brother turned himself in. A hashtag on her behalf continued to circulate until the end of the reporting period.

Women in Kuwait need a supportive public opinion, motivated by a national motivation and calling for their potential to build a more sustainable, equitable and prosperous future, both within the framework of Kuwait›s commitment to achieving the global goals or the so-called: “17th Sustainable Development Goals”, or within the framework of its National Vision 2035.

“New Kuwait”, where women can be an important figure in contributing effectively to the implementation of Kuwait’s vision or in achieving the global goals that Kuwait committed to achieving like all other countries of the world during the United Nations Development Summit .

Although the objectives of sustainable development are not legally or humanly binding, Kuwait was the first GCC country to support the fifth goal of the global goals related to: “Empowering All Women And Girls”.

This was evident when it announced the launch of the Kuwait international Award for Outstanding Women on May 15, 2018. The former Minister of Social Affairs, her Excellency Hind Al-Sabeeh said at the launch of the Award that it was in line with the fifth goal of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Kuwait is keen to care for, empower and develop Kuwaiti women by supporting programs to develop their social, economic and craft capacities and ensure their family and psychological stability through qualification programs to raise women’s competence, enhance their role in public life, provide services to working women and encourage support for their role in small enterprises. Therefore, it promotes open dialogue on gender equality and women›s empowerment as an essential element of inclusive and sustainable development( 4).

Kuwaiti women constitute 51.06 percent of Kuwait’s total population . The number of women is about 723,263 people . This is a very important indicator of the significant role women are supposed to play in shaping the country›s future. With regard to the Kuwaiti youth population, they represent a broad base in the demographic pyramid, numbering 787,129 people , accounting for 55.5 percent of the country›s total population of 1,416,495 people , with women accounting for 408,975 people , by 52 percent of the total young population, 29 percent of the total population and 56.5 percent of the total number of females in Kuwait, reflecting an increase in the number of women, especially female young women aged 1865-.

As for women working in the Ministry of Information, statistics of employees in the government sector as of 302018/06/ show that 2,386 Kuwaiti women out of a total of 7,055 Kuwaiti employees accounted for 33.8 percent of the total number of Kuwaiti employees, while 160 non-Kuwaiti women work in the Ministry of Information out of a total of 1,121 non-Kuwaiti employees , by 14.2 percent of the total number of non-Kuwaiti employees in the Ministry, i.e. there are 2,546 women working in the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information out of 8,176 employees, accounting for 31.1 percent of the staff. Women in Kuwaiti Media Despite the number of women in Kuwait, their media appearances are not at the required level. We have noted through the follow-up process to the media that the mention of women coincides with any existing event, in the sense that there is seasonality in highlighting women in society or their issues. We have also noted that the greatest share of mentioning women in media goes towards statements or news related to their participation. There is no trend to single out or allocate accounts or media materials on women›s issues or aspirations. This does not mean that the media ignore women’s issues.

Rather, it means that their media materials are limited to statements or the transitory and temporary presentation of community activities carried out by women either in partnership with their male partner or separately. Wemay address this because we are aware that the mentioning of women›s efforts and highlighting the roles that they are capable of implementing, not only what they have implemented, will facilitate women’s participation and invest their abilities towards achieving the new Vision of Kuwait by 2035 through their participation in the seven pillars of the national development plan.

Perhaps the former Kuwaiti Minister of Information, Dr. Saad bin Teflah Al Ajmi, touched on the importance of this matter by linking it with the stereotype of the Gulf region in the world. He said that it revolves around three issues: “women, terrorism and oil”, indicating that it is possible to create the mindset to convey a positive image and flip the stereotype about us and about our region(13). He pointed out the importance of the media›s role in conveying positive images and building a positive relationship(14).
What it means here is not related to gender, but rather with regard to the diplomatic field. However, guidance by his words applies necessarily to the media›s dealing with the roles that women play and which do not take their right in shining a media spotlight on them.

Here we list the achievements and interaction with them in the media:

■ Lulua Rashid Al-Khattaf, a graduate student at the Department of Political Science at the College of Social Sciences at Kuwait University gets the best research paper in English for graduate students at Sciences Po University of France in 2019 out of more than 300 research papers

■ Eng. Dalal Al-Asousi wons the 2019 Prize for Maintenance and Global Reliability for the category of “Rising Leader” after being selected among the 3 best professionals in the field from among 6000 participants around the world. The award was presented by the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP) on the sidelines of a conference organized by the Society in Kentucky – USA

■ In the Arab Championship for Artistic and Rhythmic Gymnastics, and in the first participation of young women in Kuwait, they achieved a remarkable historical achievement by winning 10 medals, with 3 golds, 4 silver and 3 bronzes

■ The sixth Gulf Women’s Sports Championship hosted by Kuwait and witnessed the participation of six teams competing for 11 unique and group games, and Kuwait ranked third with 50 colored medals The event was official, and therefore it had a wide and multiple media coverage

■ Sheikha Al-Othman was awarded the (Innovators under 35) award given by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology magazine, which is the best technical institution in the world in partnership with Dubai Future Foundation. She was chosen after receiving the first prize in the field of public health for its innovation in caring for home patients and its application in hospitals of New York

■ Eng. Asma Al-Ateeq, was honored by the Sabah Al-Ahmad Center for Giftedness and Creativity (SACGC), affiliated to the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS), for her invention of the « Smart Waste Sorting Container» among a group of Kuwaiti inventors with international patents in recognition of their scientific efforts

■ Ms. Sharifa Al-Ghanim received the recognition from the Indian Charity Association for her efforts towards persons with disabilities

■ Dr. Haneen Al-Ghabra received the award for the best annual book for her book (Muslim Women and White Femininity: Simulation and Resistance) granted by the American National Communications Association. Her book addresses issues related to white racism against Muslim women in the light of Western media

■ Dr. Jinan bin Salama gave a lecture at the Sorbonne University in France as the first Kuwaiti to lecture at a prestigious university, which is one of the most prestigious universities in France and the world

■ Dr. Hanadi Jassam Al-Omani received the «Basira» award on the sidelines of the Fifth International Red Sea Conference of Ophthalmology in Jeddah This news has not been reported by the local media.

■ Honoring Maryam Al-Aqil from the Arab Women’s Foundation in Britain for her prominent role in developing work in the government sectors in which she worked. The honor was during a ceremony held by the Foundation in cooperation with the British University (Regent) in honor of a group of Arab women creators in various fields

■ Honoring Sheikha Nawal Al-Hamoud Al-Malik Al-Sabah with the with the International University Union Medal at the Women Leaders’ Summit Conference held in Istanbul This news has not been addressed by local media, except for creation of a single Twitter account.

■ The appointment of lawyer, Jumana Adnan Behbehani, as advisor to the President of the International Bar Association «UIA» as the first Kuwaiti lawyer to occupy this position This news has not been reported by the local media

■ An engineer turns into a chef who sells in a mobile commercial vehicle as the first Kuwaiti to turn to such business

■ Dr. Ghaid Al-Salem receives the National Patient Safety Award at the 2nd Saudi International Patient Safety Conference 2019 for her research on assessing the patient safety climate in healthcare institutions

■ Mai Al-Issa wins the «Platts Global Energy» award as the first Kuwaiti to win this award Presentation of this news was talking about the international Kuwait Petroleum Company’s wining of award, which was reported by the Kuwait News Agency “KUNA”

■ Kuwaiti Women›s Weightlifting win a number of medals in the Arab Championship for young men and women in Jordan

With respect to the numbers of media outlets that interacted with the news over the course of the competition, there are a number of media outlets that published more than one journalistic article, but the media outlet was monitored, not the published material

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