For the first time, Qatari women are set to take part in historic elections for the country’s Shura Council.
Qatar is now days away from holding its historic Shura Council elections, the first to take place in the Gulf state following a decision to go ahead with the vote by Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani last year.
The elections, widely praised as a positive step towards representation, have seen dozens of Qatari women registering as candidates in the country’s first major stride towards pluralism and participation.
Some 40 female candidates submitted nominations for the elections, with the final list consisting of 28 women.
For anyone keeping tabs on Qatar, this comes as no surprise.
Women’s increasing participation in public life and access to education has been driven by female members of the royal family, most notably Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al Misned, who pushed for historic societal reforms in the early 2000s.
Sheikha Moza is the co-founder and chairperson of Qatar Foundation (QF), which has put Qatar on the map as a pioneer in education, science, and cultural development in the region and the wider world.
She is also a United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Advocate and founded Education Above All, which provides education to out-of-school children worldwide. She also founded Silatech, a social enterprise that promotes economic opportunities and creates jobs for young people in the region.
Doha News spoke to some female candidates in the upcoming elections to learn more about their vision.
From district 7, candidate Mariam Kamal Al-Muslamani said the move towards a democratic electoral system has been welcomed by the people of Qatar, as demonstrated by the great numbers of citizens participating in both the vote and campaigning.
“We are very proud to be a country that takes part in such an experiment,” she said. “As a woman, I aspire to have a voice and presence in my community and to be represented in the highest legislative council in the country.”
It is this passion that has driven Al-Muslamani to represent Qatari women in high-level government positions and showcase their significant role and contribution to society. “Being part of this council enables me to voice my concerns and lead change,” she said.
“I want to show that a Qatari woman can not only reach the highest legislative council in the country, but also implement strategies and laws that complement religious beliefs and social values,” she stressed.
The Qatari noted gender inclusivity in the Shura Council aims to represent all citizens in the government, adding that the significant number of female candidates is a sign of political maturity.
Previously, four women were appointed in the 2017 Shura Council.
Concerning women’s issues, Al-Muslamani believes that “women are more qualified to voice their concerns and tackle issues related to their experiences.
“We all know that our main supporter and role model is Sheikha Mozah, who is a pioneer in this field. She worked to give women a place in society and to ensure they received knowledge and education, which has made her a hero to all Qatari women.”
While the goal of most female candidates is to be elected to the next Shura Council, candidate Aisha Jassim Al Kuwari, from district 22, said she is participating out of a sense of duty.
“I always say that every citizen can make a positive contribution to politics, and to make this political process a success, we must all participate,” she said.
She highlighted that one of the reasons she applied to run in the elections was to utilise her extensive knowledge and experience to serve her country and people.
Among the top issues to tackle are education, youth, and women’s rights, she said.
“The youth should be trained and qualified to occupy leading roles in the future so they can be capable of running the state,” she noted. She stressed that elected and appointed candidates will have a “duty to support the youth on all levels, whether in education, sports, or politics. We bear a collective responsibility,” she said.
In addition, Al Kuwari addressed the topic of Qatari women and their rights. “There are laws that should be implemented to protect the direct interests of Qatari women, for example around women’s’ employment.”
She is also in favour of the part-time working system – a proposal recently approved by Qatar’s cabinet.
The move, hailed as a positive step for family stability in the Gulf state, will allow Qatari government employees to apply for part-time work as part of a strategy to improve living conditions for citizens and residents.
“Balance is important to succeed in the workplace while maintaining family stability,” Al Kuwari highlighted.
When asked about the reason behind the considerable number of female applicants in the upcoming elections, she said, “Legislators did not discriminate between men and women when enacting the election laws, and Qatari women have gained both the knowledge and education required for them to occupy high positions in government.”
She stressed that today, success has no limit and no gender, praising Qatari women who have reached high positions in fields like law, education, and health, among others.
“Such role models encourage Qatari women to engage in society and play a positive role. We believe that the elected and appointed candidates will successfully execute Qatar’s plan of achieving its 2030 vision,” she continued.
“Women’s participation and presence on the Shura Council is important because there are certain issues that women connect with and understand differently to men, such as women’s rights, particularly for those who are divorced or widows,” Al Kuwari stressed.
Another candidate, Mubaraka Hamad Al Massoud, agreed with Al Kuwari, adding that “most of the issues we need to tackle have a greater impact on us, and we have great hopes that this council will include highly qualified women, both elected and appointed.”