The first of December marks the day we celebrate Bahraini women, who have always been a leading partner in the progress of our nation. The empowerment of Bahraini women is a cornerstone to the reform process initiated in 2001 and today Bahraini women have become leaders in different fields and proven their ability to be equal partners with men in building the society and leading the country.
. In 2008, the King of Bahrain announced that the 1st of December would be named the Bahraini Women’s day as a token of appreciation towards the active and equal role of women in developing the nation.
· In 1928, Bahrain became the first Gulf State to have education for women, laying the foundations for equal rights and opportunities for all women of the nation.
· In 1969, the Awal Women’s Society was established and is considered the first women’s NGO with an elected board in the country. The society played a vital role in empowering Bahraini women through its projects and programme and is living proof of the active role played by Bahraini women for decades in the field of social development, education, family stability and politics.
· Following the reform process initiated by the King in 2001 resulting in constitutional ammendments and the formation of a parliament, Bahraini women were granted equal rights to political participation i.e. to vote and run as candidates for both the Municipal and Parliamentary elections held in 2002. Today, Bahraini women hold major decision-making positions in the government, legislative ad judicial authorities.
The Supreme Council for women
The Supreme Council for Women, established by a Royal order on August 22nd 2001, is considered the official independent body concerned with women affairs in the Kingdom with the vision’ Women as equal partners in building the state’. It works closely with government bodies and NGOs such as the Bahraini Women’s Union. The Supreme Council for Women aims at empowering Bahraini women on all levels, hence it launched the National Strategy for the Advancement of Bahraini Women, which is considered the first strategy of its kind in the region to be endorsed by a head of state; ‘The King’.
Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of His Majesty the King of Bahrain chairs the council which includes 16 members, representing public female figures from different walks of life. Their membership term is 3 years and can be renewed. The Council works on a number of national plans that aim at enhancing the status of Bahraini women.
Few people can claim to have done as much for empowering women in Bahrain as Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Al Khalifa, Wife of his Majesty the King, the President of the Supreme Council for Women.
Princess Sabeeka took a leading personal role in formulating the National Strategy for the Advancement of Bahraini Women by the Supreme Council for Women, which became the Supreme Council’s core strategy.
During 2006, Princess Sabeeka launched the first women’s political empowerment programme of its kind in the Arab region, which took the form of seminars, training forums and workshops for supporting the role of women in public life.
Princess Sabeeka has spearheaded a number of awards and initiatives for encouraging the role of women, including an initiative for promoting the achievements of women entrepreneurs. Other programmes aspire to reduce women’s unemployment, provide funds to help women set themselves up in business and address domestic violence or discrimination. Princess Sabeeka has also done a lot of work to support low-income families.
In short, through her role in the Supreme Council for Women and through a broad number of independent initiatives, Princess Sabeeka has worked to improve all aspects of women’s lives and can be said to have touched the lives of every woman living in Bahrain, in one way or another.
Princess Sabeeka’s other roles and achievements are too numerous to mention here, but include vital work like preventing human trafficking, promoting Bahrain’s agricultural sector, and advocating for legislations which protect women’s rights.
Bahraini women are ahead of most of the region in political l empowerment, their economic role and social influence. This is thanks in no small part to the continuing efforts of the wife of His Majesty the King and the Supreme Council for Women over the past 20 years.