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The New Arab

Omani women to represent a province for first time

Seven Omani women were elected in December council elections [AFP]

Date of publication: 28 January, 2017

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Two Omani women elected during recent council elections will be the sole representatives of a province for the first time, helping shift attitudes on gender roles from conservatives.

Two women councillors representing an Omani province for the first time in the country's history say they will work to further empower women in the sultanate.

The two councillors were voted to represent Sunnainah in northern Oman during December municipality elections, which saw a total of seven women elected to the municipal council. 

The all-woman team said they will push for women to get more women engaged in politics and provide further opportunities for them to enter business.

"It is just a matter of time. Men will gradually accept us in public office," Shamsi told Gulf News.

Shamsi and Manei both previously worked on schemes offering support, advice and training for budding women entrepreneurs. 

It is part of a bigger push by the government for more women to enter the workplace and start their own enterprises.

"Many local women have benefited from these courses as they opened their own jewellery and Omani traditional handicrafts shops," Shamsi told Gulf News.

She said that local women are also concerned with local issues and want the government to step in and improve infrastructure.

"Women in my province want to see it more developed. They want more roads and parks," Shami added.

The two Omani women said at first they struggled to gain the acceptance of conservative local elders who refused to meet them, but they did not let that hinder their election campaigns.

"I did not let it affect me," Shamsi said. "I knew sooner or later they would have to accept me, and that is exactly what happened. Now they come talk to me directly if they have any requests for municipal services."

She told the UAE-based daily that despite the achievements women have made in the sultanate there still needs to be a shift in attitudes among some Omani men.

Seven women were elected in the December elections among 202 councillors. The low rate of women running for the municipality council also highlighted the social constraints some women face in being accepted to campaign publically.


Oman is a relatively conservative country where women and men's roles have traditionally been confined to separate spaces. 

Sultan Qaboos has led efforts for women to be better represented in employment, government and business, and with some success.

Despite only a handful of women being elected to the nationwide Shura council, Qaboos has appointed many to leading positions in government.

While only one woman was voted onto the lower-house Shura council elections in 2015, 14 women members were chosen for the 84-member unelected state council.

Women are also well represented in higher education, sport and employment. A national Oman Women's Day was also implemented to improve women's visibility in public and highlight the government's resolve in promoting their position. 

It has seen a shift in attitudes in gender roles, but there are still evident challenges and areas of the country where conservative attitudes still predominate.

 

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