March 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
Last week, I had the opportunity to deliver two speeches about Bahrain at prestigious American institutions of higher learning – the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and American University. Speaking directly to American college students is always rewarding and I am always impressed at how sophisticated the questions are.
My speech at American University focused primarily on women’s empowerment and opportunity in Bahrain – one of my favorite topics to discuss. Many Americans have a monolithic picture of what opportunities women have across the Middle East. In Bahrain, women were first able to vote in municipal elections in 1934, and today serve as government ministers, ambassadors, CEOs, and in virtually every profession available to men. Women in Bahrain also receive equal pay for equal work and have full access to all employment opportunities. This has been made possible by the commitment of His Majesty the King to investing in the types of education and jobs programs that provide skills critical to success.
At the U.S. Naval Academy, I reflected on the deep military partnership our countries have shared over the past 65 years. Bahrain has always been proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our American partners and provide a welcoming home for Naval personnel in the Arabian Gulf. The stability of this military relationship is particularly important at a time when we face a number of emerging threats to our collective security.
I have a number of upcoming speaking events with college students both in Washington and around the country and look forward to sharing Bahrain’s story with them.
March 26, 2013 § Leave a comment
As the Ambassador for a strong military and political ally of the United States, I often have occasion to attend important events for our shared regional security interests. Last Friday, I had the honor of attending the ceremony where General Lloyd J. Austin assumed command of United States Central Command from General James T. Mattis in Tampa.
U.S Central Command holds primary responsibility for overseeing coordinated American military efforts through the Middle East and South Asia. As the home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, Bahrain routinely hosts CENTCOM’s senior leadership and collaborates with them closely on a number of critical matters. I have the utmost respect for General Mattis’s service and I would like to wish him all the best in his future endeavors.
At a time when we confront a number of regional security challenges, it is imperative that the United States and its regional allies work closely to confront them. I was particularly heartened by the kind words General Austin shared about the importance of the GCC in promoting regional peace and cooperation. I wish General Austin all the best in his new post.
March 18, 2013 § Leave a comment
March is Women’s History Month, and Bahrain is very proud of its longstanding progressive position on equality for women. Bahrain established education for girls in 1928; it was the first Gulf state to have social organizations for women in 1965; it granted suffrage in 2002; it appointed its first female cabinet minister in 2004; and in 2006, a Bahraini woman was elected to the parliament and another was selected to serve as the president of the UN General Assembly.
Today in Bahrain, women serve in all levels of society and enjoy unprecedented opportunities among their peers in the Middle East. In looking toward the future, it is important that young girls growing up in Bahrain continue to have the opportunities to succeed on their own merits. The Kingdom supports initiatives which empower women, through a focus on education, training and equality in the workplace and society.
This week the Supreme Council for Women announced the opening of registration for the fourth edition of the Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa’s Award for Empowering Bahraini Women, a first of its kind initiative in the Gulf and Arab world. Launched in 2004, the award aims to implement and increase the presence of women in decision-making positions, and not only does it monitor the process of empowering women, it also identifies areas in need of improvement. Recognition from the award has become a prestigious endorsement, which drives the public and private sectors to perpetuate a culture of equality.
The 2011 recipient of the award for the government sector was the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB). The EDB is responsible for a number of key reform initiatives which encourage the education sector and business environment to contribute to economic diversity and enhanced workplace and social equality for women. This is reflected in the EDB’s own foundations, as over half of the organization’s executive management is female.
There is a general understanding that the significant role of women in every aspect of Bahraini society is a core reason why the Kingdom is recognized as the most liberal business environment in the region, with the most skilled local workforce. In short, more and more people are acknowledging that when women are succeeding, the country is succeeding.
The gender gap is closing in Bahrain, thanks to such initiatives which encourage companies, organizations, and schools to empower women and girls. These continuing efforts ensure that Bahrain will remain and advance as a progressive nation that allows the best to excel no matter who they are, whether it is in business, politics, education or any skill sector.
March 1, 2013 § Leave a comment
On Wednesday, participants in the National Dialogue held a series of highly productive discussions on several important issues. The tone of Wednesday’s meeting was especially positive in comparison to previous days, during which several points which had been settled were reopened for discussion.
In an effort to prevent future roadbloacks, all attendees agreed to hold to a specific set of procedural rules. These include the imposition of speech time limits, the ability to call breakout sessions, and the ability to hold additional sessions to deal with disagreements. Furthermore, the attendees agreed that a press release recapping the day’s events would be distributed at the conclusion of each day.
The particpants also agreed that the agenda for the Dialogue would be based upon the nine-point letter distributed by the group of five opposition political societies, as well as the proposal made by the group of 10 ten societies. Through setting the agenda for future discussion, the attendees have made important progress in establishing the scope of the talks. Indeed, there is no limit to what reforms can be debated and approved through consensus.
In order to prepare for a highly substantive discussion, the participants decided to meet again on Wednesday, March 6.