Bahrain: Women's council moves for political empowerment

Khaleej Times
While municipal and parliamentary elections are likely to take place in October or November, more efforts are being made by the Supreme Council for Women (SCW) for political empowerment of women.
The council is also trying to ensure that women candidates win elections after their failure in the last elections in 2004.
The Tamkeen Taskforce, headed by Mariam Janahi at the Supreme Council for Women, is working with 80 women to give them insights into political work.

Around 60 of these women are keen to be involved in the political process either as candidates or volunteers in campaign management in this year's elections.

They are also want to work as observers seeking to acquire knowledge and prepare to run for elections in 2010.

Janahi agrees that the Supreme Council for Women is aware that this is a long-term process because it involves challenging attitudes and beliefs entrenched over decades of social conditioning, while expressing hope that a few women candidates win seats and create history.

She said that efforts were on to educate women on how to build a network, run a campaign, as well as explaining to them the functioning of the municipal council and the parliament.

According to her, many Bahraini women are now playing a significant role in society while successfully competing in a male-dominated society.

In Bahrain, particularly in the Arab world, women have to fight the stigma of being new entrants into the political arena and do not have an experienced network of mentors and supporters.

This is where the SCW steps in and provides the support needed to boost their confidence, she noted.

Women candidates have to work harder to establish their worth in the eyes of the women voters, Janahi says. In an effort to build acceptance levels, Tamkeen will publish a booklet which will explain the Shia and Sunni interpretations of Islam for women who want to join the political mainstream.

The body is also reaching out to major political groups to accept women's role in the kingdom's future.

She said the chairperson of SCW remained Her Highness Shaikh Sabika bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa.

Hemu Gorde, 2 July 2006