The Role of Women in Qatar
The wife of the Emir, Her Highness Sheikha Mouza, has been particularly prominent in her encouragement of women to participate in public life. As explained on QatarEmbassy.net: "The Qatari woman exercises her full right to take her role in society and act as a vital element within the development process of the country. She has proven her ability to give and participate alongside her fellow men in all assignments and fields ...."
The Council of Ministers established the Women's Affairs Department in 1996. The department was given the responsibility of finding work opportunities compatible with the Qatari women's nature and role in society, of proposing policies and actions to provide maternal/child services, and "developing and grooming women in order to raise the standards of their competence and potential," and organizing and supervising female cultural, religious and social functions and activities.
Additionally, the Supreme Council for Family Affairs established the Women Affairs Committee in 1998. This committee is charged with proposing policies, plans and programs to upgrade the potential of women culturally, economically, and politically, as well as with encouraging women to participate in public life and take available work opportunities especially in the field of education. This committee also sponsors the general rights of women, their rights of assuming leading roles and key positions in society and their role in development process. This Council replaced the Women's Directorate within the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs.
In 2001 the Supreme Council for Family Affairs set up the "Children's Friend" telephone service as a help line to receive calls from children, which showed that there was a need for an official organization to deal with violence against women and children. As a result, the Qatari Institution for the Protection of Women and Children was established in 2003.
Male and female Qataris aged 18 and older are able to vote, and run as candidates for election. (See our article on the political system of Qatar.) In April 2003, the first woman cabinet minister was elected in Qatar's second municipal council elections. In 2006, women took two appointed positions — one, as the Minister for Education and Teaching and the other as a deputy chairperson in the National Human Rights Committee — and one elected position, in the 17-person Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
A section on women on the website of the Embassy of the State of Qatar in Washington writes,
Also from the embassy website, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Civil Service Affairs and Housing, the number of Qatari women working in the field of health amounts to 500, compared to 357 men working in the same field. Qatari women represent 21% of the total number of 272 nurses working at the Ministry of Public Health. Women also work in preventive health, which comprises the sections of Contagious Disease Control, Vocational Health, Environmental Health, Food Control, Central Laboratories and Al Matar Clinic.
The website also reports that women head three sections in the Ministry of Justice: the Fatwah and Research, Legislation, Translation and Official Newsletter sections. There are also 5 female legal advisors in Fatwah and Legislation House and one in the State Cases Section.
Arts, Literature, and Journalism
Women increasingly participate in all these areas.
Statistics show that there are 205 women working in national and foreign banks. In 1998, a group of women started a women's investment firm, which is the first of its kind in the region: the Qatar Ladies Investment Company. And in 2000, the Businesswomen Forum was established.
Women are increasingly working in tourism (e.g., as tour guides at archeological sites), in museums, and in hotels.
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