Bahrain’s Commitment to Women’s Rights
July 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
Bahrain has a great history of female empowerment. Back in March, in honor of Women’s History Month, I profiled a series of Bahraini women who have made a difference in our society. In addition to reflecting on that important month, I wrote those profiles as a way to demonstrate the full breadth of opportunity available to women in Bahrain to pursue their dreams regardless of their gender. Their success has been made possible by a society and system that has cultivated women as equal contributors. This aspect of Bahrain has always been a distinguishing factor in comparison with many of our regional neighbors.
In Bahrain , women serve in all levels of society and enjoy unprecedented opportunities among our peers in the Middle East . Bahrain established its first school for girls in 1928. Today, the literacy rate among all women in Bahrain is over 90 percent, and reaches 100 percent for women aged 18-25. Bahrain appointed its first female cabinet minister in 2004 and, in 2006, a Bahraini woman was elected to serve as the president of the UN General Assembly. In 2006, the first woman was elected to serve in the lower house of parliament and today, four women serve in Bahrain’s Council of Representatives and 11 serve in the appointed Shura Council.
Bahraini women were first given the right to vote in municipal elections in 1934 – only 14 years after women were granted the franchise in the United States. In addition to unprecedented political rights, women enjoy a great deal of personal freedom. Women are free to choose how they dress in Bahrain , are permitted to drive, and are not restricted in the professions they may choose. Today, women serve in a variety of critical positions, including as members of parliament, CEOs of corporations, media figures, and in a variety of diplomatic roles. I often say that my story – that of a Jewish woman who rose to become a business owner, a parliamentarian, and now Ambassador to the United States – could only be possible in Bahrain and I sincerely believe this to be the case.
Bahrain has much further to travel down its path of reform, but it is important not to lose sight of the fact that for many years, Bahrain has been the most tolerant and progressive state in the Arabian Gulf. The government of Bahrain will continue its commitment to women’s rights and will oppose all efforts to erode the hard won progress it has made.