International Diplomat Magazine

Kuwait grants women full political rights


(Kuwait) – After a decades-long strife by women’s rights campaigners for full suffrage, Kuwait has granted women their full political and constitutional rights, making way for them to vote, run for elections and assume leadership positions.

Women in Kuwait have proven their worth through their leading role in driving the country’s overall development march, across all domains, including public works, social services, economy and politics.

Kuwaiti women would not have achieved this success without a number of factors, including the country’s legislative and social systems that provided them with many opportunities to occupy the highest local and regional positions, not to mention the role of men in supporting them to obtain their rights, especially their political ones.

Despite facing difficulties and challenges, the successes of Kuwaiti women have enabled them to assume a leading role across the Gulf where they have managed to as occupy many key positions.

Kuwaiti women were not only interested in gaining their political rights, but they have also been keen to obtain their economic, cultural and social rights, as granted by the 1962 constitution and the “Rights of Motherhood and Childhood” in Article 9 , as well as their protection from violence by the “Personal Status Law,” and their right to run for elections and vote in civil societies and cooperative organisations.

Kuwaiti women have played a key role during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait in 1990, as they supported men in the occupation resistance, and some of them died or were captured. A total of 82 women died during the war, and Sanaa Al Fudry was the country’s first martyr, followed by Asrar Al Qabandy.

Women in Kuwait have occupied many leading positions, including ministers, deputy ministers, university directors and ambassadresses, and were elected as members to the National Assembly.

Dr. Rasha Al Sabah held the position of the First Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Higher Education in 1993 while Nabila Al Mulla was appointed as the first Kuwaiti Ambassador to Zimbabwe and South Africa in 1993, and was appointed in 2003 as the Permanent Representative at the United Nations, UN, the first Arab Muslim ambassadress to the UN, and she was also appointed as the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Cultural Centre in New York. Dr. Fayza Al Kharafy was likewise appointed as the Director of Kuwait University.

We also cannot forget the role of Sarah Akbar, who was recognised by the entire world when she put on her protective helmet and stormed a fire ignited by the Iraqi occupiers, to save Kuwaiti and foreign engineers.

On the international level, Lulwa Al Qatami was appointed as an ambassador of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, in 1990 and occupied the position of Director of the Girls College for Administrative Affairs until 1994, one of the institutions of the Arab Council for Childhood.

In the Ministry of Information, Amal Majran al-Hamad became Assistant Undersecretary for External Information and Iqbal al-Ahmad became editor-in-chief of the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) in December 1998.

Regarding their political rights, the National Assembly approved, on 16th May, 2005, a draft law that was presented by the government to amend the first article of the elections law, which allowed women to vote and run for elections.

In June 2005, the Kuwaiti Cabinet declared the selection of Fatma Saud Al Sabbah and Fawziya Mohamed Al Bahr for membership of the Municipality Council.

In the same month, Kuwaiti women were appointed as ministers for the first time in the country. Dr. Ma’souma Al Mubarak was appointed as the Minister of Planning and Minister of State for Administrative Development.

In April 2006, Kuwaiti women practiced their political rights by voting and running for elections for the first time. Jenan Bushahry ran for elections for the Municipality Council of the Salwa Electoral Department.

In 2008, 27 women submitted official requests to run for elections, and though they were not successful, their participation gave them the experience to win in 2009.

During that year, four female candidates won their seats in the National Assembly: Dr. Ma’souma Al Mubarak, Dr. Salwa Al Jassar, Asseel Al Awadhi, and Dr. Rola Dashti.

Kuwaiti women continued their struggle to participate in the country’s political process until their presence in the ministerial formation became vital.

In July 2006, Dr. Al Mubarak was appointed as the Minister of Transport, and in 2007, she was appointed Minister of Health while Nouriya Barrak was appointed as Minister of Education and Higher Education.

After these two governments, women continued to be part of the Cabinet of Ministers. Dr. Moudhi Abdulaziz Al Hamoud was appointed as Minister of State for Housing Affairs and Minister of State for Development Affairs in May 2008. She was also appointed as Minister of Education and Higher Education. The two ministers were also part of January 2009 government, and in May of the same year, Dr. Al Hamoud was appointed as Minister of Education and Higher Education.