The Arab Women of Today
Despite the economic prosperity and the modernity brought about by the discovery of oil in the Arab region, gender equality remains an uphill climb for many Arab women. They continue to suffer from discrimination in the workplace, schools and in the general public life. Access to education, especially higher education, remains far fetched for many Arab women. This is especially true for those living in poorer rural regions. Constraints in terms of accessing health services are also well-noted. Women were also marginalized in dealing with the government through its various offices. Very few women leaders figure out in local, not to mention national or regional politics. The unhappy state of Arab women had been the subject of various literary writings, including by Arab women themselves, many of whom were forced to move abroad in order to enjoy the social freedoms denied of them at home. The Golden Chariot by Salwa Bakr is one of these literary works. These are the continuing stories of modern day Arab women echoing the experiences of their mothers and great grandmothers, signaling the fact that little had changed in the status of women in Arab society.
Gender issue had never been in the state agenda. Although some politicians pay lip service to the cause of Arab women, many of these initiatives were lukewarm and ephemeral. No lasting and institutionalized approach to actively campaign against the daily discrimination felt by women was made. The government can help a lot in alleviating the sad plight of the women, who have, by and large, remained in the social fate their kin had suffered long ago. Although changing the people’s mindset and breaking down counterproductive and discriminatory social norms and mores may take some time, political will and a strong commitment can help a lot. Considering the fact that the government had a substantial stake in the mass media sector of many Arab nations, the state can use its influence and power to condition the people’s minds and hearts. They can open the people’s eyes to the suffering of the women brought about by certain social conventions. They can rally public support for this long but noble social campaign. Legislations can be passed penalizing schools which would discriminate women from admission. Similar statutory penalties can also be levied on companies who will refuse to employ a deserving women employee simply because of her gender. If the people can stimulate the people to act and motivate them to do so, the social well-being of Arab women can gradually better in the days to come.
Bakr, Salwa. (2008). The Golden Chariot. Trans. by Dinah Minasty.