Bahrain’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry has seen women winning key seats at their recent board elections; with four members now in place to play a role in promoting Bahrain and empowering Bahraini businesswomen and businessmen.

“It is very important that the business community expresses its confidence in women;” said Afnan Al Zayani; the only woman who had previously held a seat.

This more prominent role for women in business circles is enhanced by a number of initiatives, including the Woman Competence Development Centre (Riyadat), for helping provide women with greater opportunities for launching their own business initiatives. Riyadat was founded by the Supreme Council for Women in partnership with the Bahrain Development Bank and the Bahrain Centre for Industrial Development.

The Supreme Council for Women also recently led a delegation to Geneva for the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

The debate at this UN session threw light on the progress made by women in the work force and society:

For example, the total percentage of women working in the government sector has reached 48%; according to a study conducted in cooperation with the Arab Women’s Organisation,

The number of Bahraini women working in the private sector has risen by 73.5% between 2002 and 2011, reaching more than 25,000 – over a third of the workforce. Women own 29 per cent of the commercial registrations in the kingdom.

This rapid increase in women’s share of the workforce and increasing prominence in senior governmental and commercial positions is irreversibly creating a new and more equal reality in Bahrain.

Changes to Bahrain’s social allowance policy, will give around 15,000 working women the same employment benefits as men; while Bahrain’s Family Law also enshrines women’s legal rights.

As well as growing numbers of Parliamentarians, three of Bahrain’s most prominent Government Ministers are women, including Culture Minister Mai Al Khalifa, who has achieved great things in promoting Bahrain’s cultural sector and bringing world-class performers and events to the Kingdom.

Let’s be honest and say that there is a long way to go, despite the speed at which women have been absorbed into the workforce over recent years. However, Bahrain’s readiness to see such a transformation of the role of women is testimony to the respect that women have always been accorded in the Kingdom and the tolerance of our society.

Congratulations to the new female board members at the Chamber of Commerce, and congratulations to those progressive Bahraini women who are playing a role in transforming our society for the better.

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