Education as a mechanism for breaking the barriers of women social and political empowerment in the Sultanate of Oman

Year: 2019

Author: Al-kiyumi, Amal, Salaheddin, Nesren

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper examines the main socio-cultural barriers inhibiting women from the active participation in politics in the Sultanate of Oman. The paper also highlights the relevance and importance of education to the political empowerment of women. Finally, the paper recommends some measures which, if taken, will make formal education contribute more to the political empowerment and participation of women in Oman.

While gender studies have gained an increasing attention and concern from the global world, most of them are conducted in and for western societies which are not necessarily generalizable to other cultures despite their apparent value. This is particularly important in light of the lack of research on Arab women’s empowerment and participation in social life (Varghese, 2011). Hence, this paper commences from the cultural specificity of the Omani society, and attempts to monitor what has been provided to women at the level of political empowerment, and how it may be possible to enhance the process of women’s empowerment and make their political participation more effective.

There are two paradoxical facts concerning women's political participation and empowerment in Oman. The first is that the Sultanate of Oman, represented by the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, is one of the leading and pioneering Arab countries not only in recognizing women’s political rights, but also in supporting women to fulfill their active participation in politics, as well as in the other areas of public life. The second is that, despite the prominent support of Omani government to women’s political participation, the reality proves a contrasting scenario: the weak involvement and under-representation of women in the national parliaments.

Whatever the case may be, the issue of women’s political empowerment and participation, and the transformation towards it cannot be achieved in the absence of a supporting cultural and political climate. National or international pressures and regimes’ policy towards women’s empowerment will not result in their actual participation in political life, unless there is a societal will pressing in that direction. Such a societal will has its conditions and mechanisms, the most prominent of which is education. A process of unprejudiced socialization and education in which men and women are brought up in an environment of respecting and understanding each gender’s rights, roles, and capabilities is found to be one of the vital strategies in enhancing women social, educational, and political empowerment and participation.