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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 27 Oct 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Number of Women Smokers Increasing In Saudi Arabia

New Age Islam News Bureau

27 Oct 2013

A Saudi Arabian woman drives a car as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo by AP


 16 Saudi women fined for defying driving ban

 Afghanistan's Women Still Suffer Threat of 'Honour Killings'

 Emirati Women Run School Canteens in Bid to Boost Healthy Living

 Saudi Woman Sets Up Book Bank

 Few Saudi Women Get Behind the Wheel in Driving Protest after Government Warning

 Lawyers Call For Special Courts to Try Sexual Harassment Cases in Saudi Kingdom

 Girls Settle in to First Year at Old Delhi’s Anglo-Arabic School

 Malawi: Local NGO Urges Girls in the North to High Participate in EC Registration Exercise

 ‘The Biggest Casualty of a War Are Women’

 2nd National Conference for Bahrain Women Held

 Introspection at global women’s conference

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Number Of Women Smokers Increasing In Saudi Arabia

27 October 2013

ABHA — Recent indicators have shown that the number of female smokers in the Kingdom has risen, said Dr. Tawfiq Khoja, director of the executive office for the Council of Gulf Health Ministers. The Kingdom is among the top 10 countries in tobacco consumption, he noted. Although there are attempts to reduce tar and nicotine in cigarettes, tobacco companies still claim that they cannot reduce the percentages due to technical problems related to manufacturing.



16 Saudi women fined for defying driving ban

AFP | Oct 27, 2013

RIYADH: At least 16 Saudi women have received fines for taking the wheel on a day set by activists to defy the kingdom's traditional ban on female driving, police and reports said on Sunday.

Only few women braved official threats of punishment and drove on Saturday in response to an online campaign headlined "Women's driving is a choice."

"Police stopped six women driving in Riyadh, and fined them 300 riyals ($80) each," said the capital's police deputy spokesman, Colonel Fawaz al-Miman.

Each of the women, along with her male guardian - who could be a father, husband, brother, uncle, or grandson - had to "sign a pledge to respect the kingdom's laws," Miman told AFP.

In Jeddah, police also fined two women for driving, according to the Red Sea city's police spokesman, Nawaf al-Bouq.

Saudi newspapers, meanwhile, reported that six women were stopped by police in Eastern Province, and at least two others were stopped in other parts of the kingdom.

A dozen Saudi women posted videos on the Twitter account of the campaign, @oct26driving, showing themselves driving.

Activists had originally issued a call on social media networks for women across the kingdom to drive their cars on Saturday to challenge the ban.

Some say they received telephone calls from the interior ministry asking them to promise they would not drive on Saturday.

On Wednesday, the ministry said it would act against anyone who attempts to "disturb public peace" by congregating or marching "under the pretext of an alleged day of female driving."

The next day ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki told AFP: "It is known that women in Saudi are banned from driving and laws will be applied against violators and those who demonstrate in support" of this cause.

Activists say Saturday was chosen as a "symbolic" date as part of efforts first launched more than a decade ago to press for the right to drive.

The absolute monarchy is the only country in the world where women are barred from driving. Public gatherings are officially banned.



Afghanistan's Women Still Suffer Threat of 'Honour Killings'

27 October 2013

So-called 'honour killings' became culturally engrained in Afghanistan during the Taliban's hard-lined, punitive, conservative rule from 1996 to late 2001.

The entrenched belief is that girls and women bring shame upon their family if they do not marry a man chosen for them by their parents.

Often, girls are married off before they have reached puberty, to men old enough to be their grandparents.

Women who naturally fall in love with someone not chosen for them are said to bring 'shame' on the family.

There have even been cases of women being murdered or their faces burned with acid for simply looking at men.

Often, the killings are carried out by the family of the woman, or sometimes by contractors or children who are too young to be prosecuted.

Beheadings, being stoned to death and being buried alive are some of the recent reported murders.

The Afghan government has long said it is committed to changing this barbaric entrenched culture, but campaigners warn the problem is systemic and will take years to overcome.

Considerable progress has been made since the collapse of Taliban rule in 2001 but changing attitudes could take decades.

Last year, the UN reported that cases of honour killings were on the rise - a 20 per cent increase in civilian casualties was reported among women and girls in Afghanistan in 2012.

Police and judiciary, particularly in rural southern parts of the country where the Taliban are most powerful, have been blamed for failing to properly prosecute perpetrators.

There is also a lack of awareness among women of their rights.



Emirati women run school canteens in bid to boost healthy living

Kyle Sinclair

October 26, 2013

ABU DHABI // Emirati women are running school canteens in an initiative that embodies both Emiratisation and healthy eating habits.

Eighty women have already been offered contracts and the Khalifa bin Zayed Foundation for Humanitarian Works hopes the scheme can be expanded nationwide.

“This initiative is a new avenue for Emiratisation,” Ahmed Juma Al Zaabi, the deputy minister of presidential affairs and the foundation’s deputy chairman told Al Ittihad, the Arabic-language sister newspaper of The National.

“The project stems from the Khalifa bin Zayed Foundation’s determination to provide students with everything they need at school, including a safe and healthy environment that draws them to healthy meals, which would help them grow mentally and physically.

“Through this initiative, the Foundation aims to eradicate unhealthy eating habits at school, such habits that are responsible for causing widespread diseases among students, such as obesity and diabetes.”

The women will receive small salaries, about Dh1,000 a month, and the female staff dispensing meals to the pupils will be provided with free transport.

Many of the Emirati women involved in the project have already attended a workshop organised by the Khalifa Foundation, where they were taught about the importance of punctuality, personal hygiene and food packaging.

So far, the project is being implemented in 40 schools, with two members per school, in Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah.

“We have received many requests from Emirati women to join the programme,” said Ruqiaa Gani, the coordinator of the initiative.

“We have put a few on hold for the second phase of the programme, which will involve more schools and, hopefully one day, private schools,”

An agreement has been reached with Al Ain Farms and the Emirates Cooperative Society to supply the revamped school canteens with juices, fresh dairy products and sandwiches for only Dh1 apiece.

The Ministry of Education issued guidelines last October discouraging the sale of processed food, including all types of fries, crisps and chocolates. They have been replaced by healthier food such as fruit and vegetables.

Jawaher Obeid, the principal of Ibn Al Nafees primary boys school, said pupils were enjoying the new canteen menus.

“Parents are also very happy that their children are offered healthier food and drinks,” she said.

“Now everything available is according to standards and has lower calories. Even the water offered is spring water. We don’t offer biscuits or chips any more and the juices are all fresh. Everything apart from the complete meals is Dh1.

“The meals come in packaged boxes and contain a sandwich, fresh fruit, milk and water. These cost from Dh3 to Dh5.

“We change our menus every week bearing in mind healthier products that the children enjoy.”

The Khalifa Foundation also offers Emirati students other forms of support.

More than 130,000 pupils in nearly 600 schools have benefited from daily allowances, free stationery and school uniforms, including shoes, shaylas and abayas, over the past five years.



Saudi woman sets up book bank

27 October 2013

RIYADH — A young Saudi woman has established a bank to lend books and games on a trial basis for 30 days before turning it into a permanent project, a local daily reported.

Tala Abdulrahman, the project initiator who lends a great deal of her time to charitable causes, said during one month she was able to collect 150 various games and more than 100 books.

"The idea of the bank is to reuse books and games by donating them to the poor and needy children," she told Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper.

She said when children see older people donating books and games to her bank, they will follow their example and learn the meaning of giving and helping others.

Tala expects more children to donate books and games to her bank when they see pictures and read news stories of other children while delivering their donations. She said the first phase of her project will involve donation campaigns in a number of malls and shopping centers.

"We will later establish small libraries in public places, schools and universities where readers can borrow books and games," she said while adding that charity does not only mean giving financial donations but it has many other faces.

"Instead of dumping books and games in the garbage, people can donate them to the bank where needy children can make use of them," she said. "We want to make giving part of our culture."



Few Saudi women get behind the wheel in driving protest after government warning

October 27, 2013

RIYADH // Saudi women ignored warnings of punishment and got behind the wheel on Saturday in defiance of a ban on driving.

There were conflicting reports as to how many women drove on a day that had billed by activists as a “drive-in” day. Saudi professor and campaigner Aziza Youssef said the activists had received 13 videos and another 50 phone messages from women showing or claiming they had driven. She said they have no way to verify the messages.

However, other activists put the figures much lower. At least four videos were posted on YouTube, including from the capital, and rights activist Naseema Assada said three others had driven in Eastern Province to show women’s “determination”.

Activists had originally issued a call on social media networks for women across the kingdom to drive their cars on Saturday to challenge the ban.

“Had there not been a threat from the interior ministry, more women would have responded,” said Ms Assada, who did not herself drive so that “authorities would not consider the move a challenge” to the ministry orders.

More women are expected behind the wheel in the coming days if authorities take no measures against those who defied the ban on Saturday, activists say.

Police patrols and checkpoints were deployed across several parts of Riyadh.

One of the videos shows a woman cloaked in black and wearing dark sunglasses, identified as May Al Sawyan, driving somewhere in the capital, apparently without being stopped.

She could be seen in what appeared to be the car park of a shopping mall, before driving onto a main road with little traffic.

For now, the “Women’s Driving is a Choice” campaign has taken a back seat in the face of the warnings.

“The authorities clearly do not want any gatherings on a specific date,” activist Maysaa Al Amudi said of the “drive-in”.

“We are trying to calm things down and affirm that the campaign will continue but without a specific date.”

Some say they received telephone calls from the interior ministry asking them to promise they would not drive on Saturday.

On Wednesday, the ministry said it would act against anyone who attempts to “disturb public peace” by congregating or marching “under the pretext of an alleged day of female driving.”

Activists say Saturday was chosen as a “symbolic” date as part of efforts first launched more than a decade ago to press for the right to drive.

“Women will continue to drive until the government makes an official decision on the matter and starts issuing permits,” said Ms Assada.

* Agence France-Presse with additional reporting by the Associated Press



Lawyers Call For Special Courts to Try Sexual Harassment Cases in Saudi Kingdom


 27 October 2013

Lawyers here have called on the government to set up special courts to deal with sexual harassment cases.

Hmoud Al-Khaldi, a lawyer, said this week that these courts would consider cases in secret and under special rules.

He also called for new laws on sexual harassment. "It is the responsibility of many parties, such as the Ministries of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Interior, to address these cases," he said. These parties should have awareness campaigns on the dangers of such behavior, he said.

Another lawyer, Majed Qaroun, said assault, abuse and sexual harassment take place everywhere. He said Islam has criminalized verbal and physical abuse.

"Handling harassment depends on the implementation of the law, not just enacting such laws." He said there was a tendency by victims and their families not to report abuse. "Some families prefer to keep the matter in the dark," he said.

Qaroun said courts are hearing less than one percent of harassment cases. He said that perpetrators often resort to "collective behavior" as was the case recently when a group of young men harassed five women at a mall in Dhahran. He urged the women to file complaints.



Girls Settle in to First Year at Old Delhi’s Anglo-Arabic School

Suryatapa Bhattacharya

October 26, 2013

NEW DELHI // Inside the hallowed marble and red sandstone walls of the Anglo-Arabic Senior Secondary School in New Delhi lie verdant gardens, flowering frangipani trees framing the courtyard.

The buildings, an ode to Mughal architecture, form a square around the garden. Kites swoop over sports fields. Mongoose scurry around the gardens. Doorways framed by geometric arches open on to classrooms with vaulted ceilings.

The school, founded in 1696, has produced leaders of Indian and Pakistani politics, art and sciences such as Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first prime minister; Syed Ahmed Khan, founder of the Aligarh Muslim University; and Mirza Masood, the Indian Olympic hockey player. For centuries little changed – until the school decided to admit girls.

“I had never studied alongside boys before,” said Sheba Khan, 17, who will sit her grade 12 exams in March. At first she had hesitated, though her parents were willing to send her to a coeducational school.

Ms Khan said. “But the school’s reputation, along with the fact that I could study finance, helped my decision,” Sheba said.

The decision to admit girls last year was based on a need to offer schooling to girls from Muslim families.

A government-commissioned report published in 2009 found that only 68 per cent of Muslim girls attended school, compared with 80 per cent of girls from other religious communities. The report also noted that 25 per cent of Muslim children between the ages of six and 14 had never attended school, or had dropped out.

“This created an even more urgent situation to push to get girls into a school,” said Firoz Bakht Ahmed, a member of the Delhi Education Society, which runs the school.

The school management reached out to parents, calling meetings to address their concerns.

“There were concerns that the girls will not be safe. They will become obstinate, hard-headed; will not follow the Purdah system. There was a lot of opposition.

“But we managed to convince them that unless a girl is educated, later generations cannot prosper,” Mr Ahmed said.

Of the 1,800 mostly Muslim students, there are now 100 girls in the school, which teaches classes in Urdu.

There are only two other Urdu-language secondary schools for girls in the area, known as the Walled City of Old Delhi. One is private, the other offers courses only in arts.

While there are English-language and Hindi-language schools available, many students who studied in Urdu cannot easily make the jump. Private English-language schools are more expensive. And conservative Muslim parents feel uncomfortable allowing their daughters to study in Hindi or English-medium schools.

Last year, Sayed Humera’s family moved from Mumbai to Delhi and she struggled to find a school that would let her study the sciences in Urdu, so that she could pursue a career as doctor.

Ms Humera, 16, travels two-and-a-half hours each way to get to the Anglo-Arabic school from her home near the border between Delhi and Haryana state, taking a bus, then the metro and finally walking.

“I want to be a gynaecologist, because I want to help women who don’t want to be seen by male doctors,” she said. “Especially women from my community.”

Ghaziuddin Khan, a general in the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s army, founded the school. It was first a madrasa for the children of the Walled City. The general’s tomb stands in the school grounds.

In 1827, Sir Charles Metcalfe, the acting governor-general of India, added English, natural science and mathematics to the syllabus. By 1832, the school was also the seat of the Vernacular Society that translated the classics from English, French and German to Urdu, Farsi and Arabic.

During the Indian Mutiny of 1857, when Indian soldiers rebelled against the British, the school’s library was burnt, and handwritten translated works were lost.

Since then the school has undergone a number of name and curriculum changes, before becoming a secondary school in the 1990s. The reputation for academic excellence remains intact, but Mr Ahmed worries about the chaos of Delhi invading the tranquillity of the school.

Outside the walls, lorries and rickshaws jostle for space on the one-lane road. There is an illegal lorry stand and a homeless shelter that has been built between the two main gates of the school. Mohammed Wasim Ahmed, the school principal, worries about the safety of the students, especially the girls. Guards often chase trespassers off the property as night falls. The tomb of the Mughal-era founder and the mosque also attract the faithful, who line up to pray.

“We need a better boundary wall, more fencing, more security,” said Mr Ahmed. “We can’t stop the flow of people that come to pray in the mosque and tombs, but we are trying to find a way to streamline the process so it doesn’t affect the students.”



Malawi: Local NGO Urges Girls in the North to High Participate in EC Registration Exercise

27 October 2013

Blantyre — A local Non Governmental Organisation, Active Girls Initiative Centre (AGIC) has urged girls in the northern part of Malawi to participate in the ongoing electoral commission's registration exercise.

Speaking to the Malawi News Agency (Mana) on Friday, the NGO's secretary, Beauty Chirombo said the exercise which is almost going to an end and is in the northern part of Malawi should give an opportunity to them to be registered so that they are able to vote for leaders of their choice in May next year,.

"You know that most girls have a big problem of despising themselves. They have that spirit of excluding themselves in most important things such as this one. But we are saying no to that.

"Instead they should be in the forefront in such issues as that will enable them to make informed decisions on who should be their leaders," she advised.

She added that through such participation and taking up the initiative to vote, it will help them put their female counterparts in various positions in the country but was quick to say that she was not directing them on whom to choose.

She then commended the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the support rendered to the female aspiring candidates who needed financial support to enable them get into the race.

"Our organisation deals with girls and every woman was a young girl sometime back. And we know various problems girls or women face. At the same time, witnessing female aspiring candidates who face financial constraints being assisted by UNDP, we are proud of that," she concluded.

AGIC focuses on enhancing girls' education by targeting brilliant girls in both rural and urban schools of the country with financial, material and moral assistance.

Malawians will in May next year go to the polls to vote for President, Members of Parliament and ward councillors at once.



‘The biggest casualty of a war are women’

27 October 2013

Winner of 2011 Arab American Book Award, Manal Omar has worked for over 15 years in the field of women’s rights, peace-building, humanitarian aid and development. Manal is devoted to creating a safe space for dialogue on current events on identity, civil society, and women’s rights in the Muslim and Arab world. In 2007, Islamic Magazine named her one of the 10 young visionaries shaping Islam in America. She is currently the Associate Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa for United States Institute of Peace (USIP). 

As Country Director for Iraq, Iran and North Africa at USIP, Manal set up the operations of ‘Women for Women International’ in Baghdad.

Barefoot in Baghdad is a memoir of her experiences in Iraq from 2003 to 2005 and gives the authors perspective of the situation in Iraq, as the author experienced it during the course of her work as Country Director and as a Muslim woman brought up in the USA. Earlier this summer, Manal was in Doha for a book reading session at Georgetown University.

The book is written in a simple voice, particularly suitable for young adults or for people who know nothing about Islam or the Middle East.

While the book elucidates the issues facing women in Iraq, it also prompts the reader to ponder upon the wider context of “women in conflict and post-conflict transitional societies and is as relevant today, 10 years after the Iraq war, as it would be any other time.”

According to Manal Omar, international activist and author of Barefoot in Baghdad, “the biggest casualty of a war are women.” Excerpts …

There are repeated references in your book to the word: “Listen”. Do you think the world has listened? And what are the lessons we should be taking from Iraq and Afghanistan and use them looking forward to Syria?

Looking back at Rwanda, Bosnia and others, I don’t think so. In terms of international development, humanitarian response, using war and other tools and particularly in reference to Iraq in 2003, I don’t think we have really listened.  From day one the Iraqis were very clear about what they wanted and needed. I think if we had listened to what the Iraqis needed in terms of their own country, we would have a very different picture to what we have today.

It goes without saying that every country is incredibly different politically, internally and in many other respects. It’s very hard to compare Iraq and Afghanistan and even harder to compare Syria because it is something that started internally versus something that started externally but unfortunately I have to say, we haven’t listened enough!

The international community as a whole should really step back and think of what are the alternatives to standing by and letting atrocities happen. There are a lot of lessons to learn but what happens every time is that we tend to have a kneejerk reaction, we throw up on lessons learnt and almost make the same mistakes again and again. My argument is that, when that happens, women pay the highest price as they are the most vulnerable and the least protected. You are definitely seeing that in Syria now.

I volunteered outside of my capacity at a Syrian refugee camp and it was a difficult experience for me to see how much history was repeating itself, how vulnerable they are and until now the international community hasn’t learnt the best way to respond and to support.

What inspired you into writing this book?

I wanted to tell the story of my experiences in Iraq from my own perspective. All too often, analytical works and research into war-torn countries mostly paint the picture of a faraway place with a lot of violence and bombs. My experience had shown me another side — of the women in war-torn countries.

From that experience I also learnt that women have a very powerful voice and they are able to make very important points through storytelling and I took to it as well.

During the Iraq war, there were times when there were hundreds of deaths a day and people, particularly in the US, got what we call the ‘Iraq and Afghanistan fatigue.’ I felt that we had a duty to not feel ‘fatigue’, to actually understand reality and I hoped that through this narrative there was a possibility to recapture people’s attention.

When you wrote the book originally, the ending in the book was different and subsequently you changed it. Why?

When I wrote the book I think I was at a very difficult stage because I had seen how far women had actually gone backwards in Iraq and in Afghanistan. There is still a struggle, a lot of rhetoric and a lot of positive words given to the issue of women in Iraq but very little muscle, very little political will in the world to actually do things.

I am happier with this ending because I think the other one was something that sounded like I was ready to give up, ‘everyone just go home and stop trying’. But when I spoke to some of the women in the country recently, I realised that they haven’t given up hope and they are still willing to fight, which has been a lesson for me.

It made me think that if they are not giving up, if they are at the forefront, still very eloquently defending their rights and if they are not losing their optimism, then I should continue to be hopeful as well. That’s what brought about a change in my tone, in how I was feeling, as well as in the way the book concludes.

What is the protection available to women’s rights under Islamic law? Does anything need to change in this context?

One of the biggest challenges is specifying very clearly the legal laws and urban realities. When we are saying “Islamic Law”, we are saying Islamic doctrine which is recognition of my favourite word, the “Process”. If you ask me to define Islamic law, it’s like me asking someone in the USA to define the “Justice” factor. Within the Islamic doctrine we need to be open to the recognition. So it’s not as much as defining what men have, which is the trap we keep falling into. It’s not defining the specifics of the law. It’s not defining the approach.

It is defining the process…what are the courts, the reviews, appeal process… how many higher courts…what is the law of the religious leaders versus the law of the courts versus the law as per the lawyers.

And that is in the legal system. So whether you are talking about justice in the West or Islamic doctrine in the East, for me it’s the process, the checks and balances, the system that we setup which is the most important thing. And I think if we take it from that approach, we can begin to unpack this very confusing term of Shariah and Islamic law and Madhhab. It’s more a process of how we are going to use and what are we going to reference. I think that discussion is essential.

What is happening now is that we’re getting over arching general statements in the constitution without answering these questions. In my opinion that is very dangerous. Which is what resolution 137 in Iraq was — an overarching general statement that then leads to very monolithic interpretations and we lose the beauty, the science and the precedence which makes up the law.

What is the importance of women’s involvement in political and constitutional decisions? Why do women not seem to be a part of this process, particularly in the Arab world?

The one important lesson I have learnt from my 15 years of experience is the importance of constitutional rights! Women are very action- oriented and that is something I really admire. So country after country, women are occupied in trying to solve day-to-day problems facing them to the extent they get so occupied in sorting problems on the ground and responding to IDPs (internally displaced persons) that they are left with no time to negotiate power.

The same is happening now with Syrian women and I think it’s a crucial mistake. The challenge is women do not have decision-making power and as a result too often are left out of the process and as a result we see how conflicts can escalate and be prolonged.

The constitution as a document isn’t very useful but constitution as a process is incredibly important. As I see it, it’s not about negotiating power, it’s about negotiating a whole new contract between the citizens and whatever government will emerge and women really need to be able to find a way to be at the table.

In Iraq, Egypt and Libya, women were missing at the negotiating table when the constitution was being formulated and that’s why it’s important to work on the tools and templates ahead so you’re focusing on the process and not as much the outcome.

Once you have that, you have a whole lot of work ahead of you but at least you have a point of reference that solidifies your position in the rule of law.



2nd national conference for Bahrain women held

Suad Hamada (Bahrain Beat) / 27 October 2013

Presence of women in govt institutions reaches 47.8% of total workforce

Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, wife of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and President of the Supreme Council for Women (SCW), patronised last week the Second National Conference for Bahraini Women under the slogan (The Integration of Women’s Needs in Development.. Review and Evaluation).

The conference was organised by the SCW, in cooperation with the Bahrain Women Union and the Cooperation Committee between the SCW and women’s associations and committees.

The SCW’s Secretary-General, Hala Al Ansari, stressed that the notion integrating women’s needs in the plans and policies is a major mechanism for the empowerment of women and it broadens their participation in the development, emphasising the importance of local and international practices that support principle of equal opportunities and integration of women’s needs.

Al Ansari explained that principles of justice and equal opportunities are realised through the adoption of legislative and executive measures and reviewing the national strategies to ensure the integration of women’s needs and the provision of supportive services in work environment to enable women to harmonise efforts between work and family duties, in addition to activate the principle of equal opportunities in the government sector to ensure the integration of women as a competitive partner, as well as to develop motivating systems that support equal opportunities in government and civil society institutions as well as in the private sector.

The conference highlighted that the presence of women, in government institutions and ministries, has reached 47.8 per cent of the total workforce.

$2 billion earmarked for social housing plan

Deputy Prime Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa disclosed that a more than $2 billion budget has been allocated for the upcoming 5-year pilot housing plan to reduce waiting lists in order for all citizens to benefit from housing services.

Shaikh Khalid said that there are multiple waiting lists at present. The Ministry of Housing continues to exert all efforts without let or failure, he said, pointing out that the social housing programme was introduced by the Ministry to provide housing service to as many citizens as possible. The programme agreements were signed by Minister of Housing engineer Bassim bin Yagoub Al Hammer; General Manager of Eskan Bank Dr Khalid Abdullah; representatives from the participating financial corporations: Ahli United Bank (AUB), Bahrain Islamic Bank (BIsB), Bank Al-Salam, Kuwaiti Finance House (KFH), real estate developers: Nasseej Company, Housing Properties Company, Saraya Company, Diyar Homes and Manara Developing Company.

Minister emphasises student aptitudes and dispositions

The 2nd Vocational Guidance Forum themed (Towards insightful, futuristic and productive horizons) was held recently with participation of 225 social guidance specialists from the three stages of schooling.

The Minister of Education, Majid bin Ali Al Nuaimi, emphasised in his inaugural speech the significance of maintaining an equilibrium between student needs, aptitudes and dispositions on the one hand and labour market requirements on the other.

Students receive quality academic instruction and vocational training to pursue an active career commensurate with individual aptitudes and inclinations, Dr Majid bin Ali Al Nuaimi said.

The minister envisioned building excellent vocational guidance programmes and harnessing modern techniques and technologies, pointing out that qualified social workers in the ministry boost academic and vocational awareness of intermediate school students to help them choose whichever subjects and disciplines they prefer to study at secondary school level according to their capabilities, disposition and academic performance.



Introspection at global women’s conference

 Oct 27, 2013

A hundred women from across the world — the list included politicians, lawyers, businesswomen, social workers, writers, musicians, actors, sportspersons, and even comedians — came together for a day of debate, discussion and introspection on the most crucial issues facing women at the 100 Women Conference on Friday.

Hosted by the BBC at the New Broadcasting House in London, the conference was the culmination of the 100 Women Season launched by the BBC on October 7. The woman-centred focus of the new season of programming on all platforms of the BBC’s global news channels commenced with a documentary on Malala Yousufzai by Mishal Hussain

From former tennis champion and 18-times Grand Slam singles winner Martina Navratilova, who spoke of the need to “break boundaries, be yourself and believe in yourself”, to physicist and Gender Equality Champion of the University of Cambridge Professor Dame Athene Donald, who spoke on why women are under-represented in science and technology, the 100 Women Conference presented a many-layered picture of women’s experiences of inequality.


The gang rape of a young girl in the winter of 2012 in Delhi set off a process of soul-searching within the BBC. Journalists and editors reflected on whether the multi-platform media organisation with a formidable world presence was doing enough in its coverage of women. An audience survey came back with findings that laid the foundation for the 100 Women Season. Women audiences said that they wanted their experiences to be better reflected and represented on the BBC World Service.

“The idea for this had its roots in India, as it took shape following the New Delhi rape which started a debate on where we were with women’s rights,” Fiona Crack, Editor for 100 Women, told The Hindu.

The 100 Women Conference was structured around four major debates or themes. The first was News of the Day, under which the 100 discussed three issues that are currently in the headlines; namely, phone tapping; the Syria crisis (and its impact on women); and discrimination against the Roma community.

The second was The Big Idea in which six women — Obiageli Ezekwesili, Senior Adviser, Open Society Foundation; Cherie Blair, British barrister; Fawzia Koofi, MP and former Deputy Speaker in the Afghan National Parliament; Cerrie Burnell, children’s TV presenter; Claudia Paz y Paz, Attorney-General of Guatemala; and Selma James, writer and activist — each presented a Big Idea on how women’s lives could be improved. Of the 100 women present, 24 per cent voted for the Big Idea from Claudia Paz y Paz who called for greater levels of prosecution of those who perpetrate violence against women.

The third debate had four representatives from major religions and one atheist engaging in debate on an issue that is increasingly confronting the women’s movement today: Can faith and feminism coexist? It saw the radical Spanish nun Teresa Forcades and the British woman stand-up comedian and atheist Kate Smurthwaite cross swords. Ms. Smurthwaite spoke of the “deeply misogynistic” history of all major religions. Ms. Forcades argued that as a Catholic she is working to change the patriarchal system in the Church.

The fourth debate was on whether motherhood is a barrier to women’s equality.

“We did not seek to compile a list of the 100 most powerful women in the world,” said Rupa Jha, a senior editor with BBC and co-host of the Conference. “These women have pushed boundaries, and they represent the world of women and women audiences.”

The response to the 100 Women Conference was overwhelming. “Women took it to the next level through the hash tag, and we realised that we had tapped into something very relevant. In London, 100 Women was trending at the top the whole day and globally it was between number one and three,” Ms. Crack said.