Arab Women in the Political World
Will they ever successfully lead?
By: Muna Alfuzai, Kuwait Times
Can women in the Arab world lead a successful political life? This is a controversial subject because most of us compare the status enjoyed by Arab women with that of their western counterparts. We reach the conclusion, ‘No way, never’!
Some of us think that nothing can be done to change this. This is not the case in other countries that follow different traditions. How many middle class women have secured a seat under political, economic and social pressure and by competing with the wives of Arab political leaders? None. Okay, so maybe there are one or two .Let’s not forget that for women, assuming power is not as easy as it seems. She relies heavily on various empowering elements that encourage her to forge ahead with her plans, even if it is not politically motivated.
Drawing a comparison between women in the West and the Middle East is unfair and unacceptable. Different ethics, culture and public tolerability govern the standards of what is socially acceptable for women. Calls for women’s social and financial freedom as well as a larger public participation have never been the norm here. It is not welcomed in communities where women are not permitted to voice public opinion, drive a car or take up employment. The men condemn such talk as devil’s radical call. Of course , free thought would jeopardize their control over women and they risk losing the benefits associated with locking women up in the cage of customs.
Conservative men cannot stomach the idea of an open minded, outspoken woman. They look down upon such women as devil’s disciples who will certainly burn in hell, even if she is a women activist with a cause !
On the other hand, the business women’s level of involvement in enriching local economy and empowering middle class or underprivileged women is unsatisfactory. So in nearly most Arab communities, the gap between rich business women and the underprivileged women is very wide. A woman is recognized only if she is wealthy or married to an influential man! How can we solve such a dilemma? Can anyone change people mindsets for a fair cause? I believe this will take time, effort, sincerity and sacrifice by all a nd not only women.
How can men be categorized? I think we need to be fair and say that not all are alike. A lot of liberal-minded and highly educated men believe in uplifting women but are forced to conform to societal norms.
Indeed, frustration is a natural outcome. It will be a miracle if a few can make it to the top.