Update from Kuwait

Warm greetings from Kuwait

I hope all is well and Happy International Women's Day. By the time you get this, our day would probably be over here and we get ready to leave to Dubai on Friday morning.

We have learned a lot and met with some amazing women.  It has been challenging I have to say on multiple levels that I will probably talk about at the report back when at the office.

Kuwaiti women are known to be very strong and powerful. They are overall highly educated, many have studied in the US or the UK but usually all return to Kuwait.  We have met with older activists and old organizations, the Women Cultural and Social Society was established in 1964, and with younger ones.  However, youth participation is not very strong. Although we did hear from professors at the university that many young women were involved with women campaigns in the past elections.

What is on everyone's mind here is the political right that they have finally acquired a year ago. The past election was an emergency one because the government fell and so women had little over a month to campaign. We met with two women that had run for elections.  In total 30 women ran for office and they gained tremendous experience even though none had won.  They are though very determined to organize training programs on running an election campaign and also explaining the ins and outs of the political process in Kuwait. Some are already planning to run again for office.

Even though on the surface, we all hear about the wealth in this country, yet there are multiple layers to the society that we have learned about and witnessed.  There is a large marginalized population of the bidun, a group without a Kuwaiti citizenship. There are different levels of citizenship as well.

In honor of International Women's Day, we attended two events. One organized by the Women Cultural and Social Society, was a lecture at the society's center on the political process and the internal dynamics of the parliament, as one in a series of lectures to provide training on how to engage within Kuwaiti political structure. Another event was organized by the Alumni Association (a mixed group that also organizes several programs on women and is generally engaged with the civic and political affairs in the country). The event was a musical night of traditional Kuwaiti songs. The band was made up of all men. However, the one woman played the
qanun (a traditional Arabic string instrument), which is not a very common phenomena.  Both meetings were attended by men and women of all sectors.

We will have pictures to share when we come back.

Zeina Zaatari is the Global Fund's program officer for the Middle East and North Africa.

 
 

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