GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Paper Proposal Text :
The Arab Human Development Report 2002 identifies three deficits unique to the Arab region: deficits in freedom, in women’s empowerment, and in knowledge. The six states of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE have been responding to these challenges seriously, keeping their political and social sensitivities in mind. Education has been recognized as most important tool for the empowerment of people and women’s literacy has been particularly emphasized as key towards achieving women’s empowerment. Thus among the recent initiatives taken by GCC States, is to empower their women through education in order to satisfy the aspirations of youths and women of the region as well as answering to the overdue international demands to restructure the education system and to empower women to sustain growth as well as development.
Recently, all of the GCC States have launched important initiatives to encourage women’s greater participation in society, but most of them primarily address female unemployment. Particular attention is still not being paid to empowering women by creating opportunities for them to voice their opinions and realize their ambitions. There is a lack of policies and initiatives in the education systems which can support the needs and aspirations of women. There is also no considerable change in the national perceptions about the role of women in GCC society. Education does not relieve a woman of the burdens and expectations associated with being a mother and wife. Though women are gaining more access to education at all levels there is no alleviation of societal expectations of their traditional gender roles. The structure of patriarchal societies has also not so much weakened or disappeared. While women take on the extra load to pursue education, society is not evolving its expectations of men in supporting women.
Access to education is not a major concern in the Gulf States. Women have made significant strides in the areas of literacy and university education. In terms of literacy levels and enrolment numbers in higher educational institutions, Gulf States have shown significant progress. The female literacy rate in GCC States is as high as 89.1% in Qatar, 85% in Bahrain, 81.7% in UAE and Kuwait, 71% in Saudi Arabia and 67.2% in Oman according to the World Bank (2008) data. Statistics show that girls are equal to boys in tertiary, secondary and primary level of education in Gulf countries, and 60% of all university students in the most of the Gulf States are women. However there persists difference of quality education between the two genders as most of the female students are still content to social sciences and humanities because of job security in public sector. It appears that the statistics of Gulf women in education are rising steadily in terms of quantity but in terms of empowering women there is still long way ahead. However dependency on statistics alone as indicators paints only a one dimensional image. Any examination of the role of women’s education will be ineffective without considering the overall development context.
As part of GCC, though all the six states share many similar historical and cultural ties, but individually every state has its different profile. Oman is trying to establish a distinct political and social profile from that of other states and thus has responded to the gender related challenges in education system in a distinguishable way. Hence a different process of modernization throughout its history has been followed. However how much has been this progress resulted in overall empowerment of women in Oman is a critical question.
Oman represents a unique societal blend of tribal, religious and modernist aspirations. The Government has made an attempt to create a bridge between religious, tribal and feminist’s pressures. Though, religious and tribal leaders play vital role but they try to stick to the traditional norms of society whereas the government has taken several measures to empower women through education. All present laws and regulations give equal opportunities to women in trade, labour, civil service and social insurance but as of now teaching, nursing and sales profession have employed women in reasonable numbers. The links and delinks between the education of Omani women and their empowerment process has not been studied much. Therefore there is a need to generate new studies on this crucial aspect of Omani women.
Most of the studies on Omani women’s status, their education and empowerment revolve around the economic aspect of empowerment or sometimes in political participation of women but there is a lack of specific studies on the social and familial empowerment of women which follows with their education, literacy and awareness. Therefore a study on the education of Omani women and its translation into their empowerment in different spheres can be very important in studying the gender issues. To cover the important aspects of education and its translation into women’s empowerment, this paper will be divided into two sections: 1. The educational scenario of GCC States (with specific study on Oman) 2. GCC women in general and Omani women’s empowerment in particular will be studied in three sections: economic, political and social empowerment. In political empowerment section, voting rights of women and female representation in political system of the country will be studied. Whereas in economic empowerment section, female labour force in the country, businesswomen and female entrepreneurship will be discussed. The social empowerment section will have two sub sections, first: women’s participation in social institutions and associations, second: women’s own status and position in their families like to what extent they have their say in their families regarding different issues in the household. Finally, the status of women in Oman requires being assessed with due care in terms of Islamic, tribal and cultural norms as well which have significantly impacted and shaped women discourses. Thus it will constitute the conclusion of the paper.