Women in Qatar

16 Aug 2014

Qatar as a nation has opened its arms to development and has been enthusiastically spreading its wings in various fields that are aiding its development and recognition as a nation to be reckoned with in the future. This has led to a sort of reform in the normally traditional Muslim nation in terms of the treatment for women.

In general the culture of Qatar is very conservative with both men and women both dressing in traditional attire. Women cannot be seen in public without a male escort. Their attire requires them to be fully covered with abaya’s to cover their faces as well. While women are allowed to be educated, there is a separation in the men and women in universities and no man would talk to a woman unless and until it was necessary for work purposes. Young men and women interacting with each other are frowned upon. Women also work and even work place interactions have been restricted to only business interactions and no form of casual conversation can be carried out between a man and woman who are not related.

The new way of change and hope has been brought in by the new Emir’s wife, who is seen by many as an inspiration and beacon of change. Under the current emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the first municipal elections were held in 1999 for both women and men. The emir’s wife, Sheika Mozah, serves as a role model for women’s independence in Qatar. The opening of the Cornell Medical Center and other American college campuses here are largely a result of her vision. These university campuses have stretched the existing norms of education, introducing new programs and coeducational campuses that challenge Qatar’s traditional university system to keep pace.

Today with the slow but consistent reforms women are allowed to vote and drive around the country. Even corporate jobs that were earlier closed to women have today been opened. The cultural changes are also seen in public spaces where the traditional dark coloured or black abaya’s have given way to bright ones with designs and embroidery. Women view this as a way to express their individuality even while staying within the limits of their traditional expectations. The opening up of social media and mobile phone has given a new freedom to the younger generation to express their ideas and opinions. Change is slow but constant and it is showing a whole new world to the people of Qatar. Women are silently celebrating the change and working hard to keep their privileges alive so that women in the future can enjoy a life where their opinion counts.

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