“This is a man’s world,” sang soul legend James Brown. A line that has entered into the vernacular of the casual chauvinist. But just how true is it? It sends a demoralizing message to women, for sure: if this is a man’s world, what’s the point of trying? This clichÈ has become so ingrained that it in itself presents an obstacle to women – women who watch men make the mistakes and themselves stay at home to count the costs.
A recent study into the political role of women across Arab societies concluded that their participation remains ‘low’ and ‘insignificant.’ In the sixties and seventies, women across the world strove to liberate themselves from the patriarchal dominance that had defined human society since Eve committed the original sin. Now, we have taken a backseat and seem content to let men make the decisions again. Just consider Kuwait.
The government has long expressed a desire to increase the number of women in office. But how many women have got involved? How many women undertake voluntary work? How many of us have supported other women aiming for senior government roles? Ver y, very few. Conser vative groups and their female members are particularly culpable, refusing to suppor t women with political ambitions out of a belief in the innately superior qualities of men, even against the most highly-qualified female candidates.
Even more depressing is that many well-educated conser vative women, holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, share this belief that women should have no role in politics. In the past, most women to have held a political position in the Arab world have either been wives or relations of male figures. I believe that we should now look to the UAE as a model for female participation. Yemen too has recently introduced a quota designed to increase the number of women in office. As encouraging as these developments are, so much more needs to be done. Education and the media are vital, but they are controlled by men.
Human rights groups should take the initiative and get into schools – to educate girls about their responsibilities from as young an age as possible. What was the next line in that song? It’s a man’s world, perhaps, “But it wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl.” And as we all know, Mr Brown might have been the singer but he was only belting out the words of his lyricist – the formidable, and definitely female, Betty Jean Newsome.
By Muna Al-Fuzai
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