What makes Oman the safest place for women to live in?

The news about Oman being one of the safest countries for women to live in according to a recent Forbes article has already made its round not only online but among expats living in the country. The news was a welcome validation of what many in the Sultanate already know. For those who might have missed the news, the Forbes article cited the 2018 Expat Insider Survey as the basis for its data. With over 18,135 correspondents living in 187 territories and countries, 68 countries were rated for different topics and one of the sub-categories was Safety and Security.
Oman was listed as number two amongst the Safest places for women to live. Breaking down the result and focusing it in the GCC and the Arab world, it was clear that Oman is considered by many expats as the safest in the region.
In the posh and majestic lobby of Al Bustan Palace, this news didn’t come as a surprise for Katrin Herz, the hotel’s general manager. Working in the hospitality sector, she is continually seeing the influx of tourists to the country. Under her, reports several people — from her executives down to the housekeeping. Expat women make up a big percentage of the hospitality workforce.
The news was also welcomed by Hameeda Al Balushi and Sushmita Sarkhel, both working at the United Media Services LLC as Senior Executive and Assistant Editor respectively. Even Filipina domestic worker Fe Santiago was happy to have heard the news.
We talked with these four women to know their thoughts and to double check whether the survey resonates well with expats living in the Sultanate.
Having seen the report, what was your initial thought and reaction about the ranking?

Katrin: I saw the article and I agree 100 percent. This is what I always shared with my friends. Many who are not familiar with the region have their concerns but having lived in many countries around the globe, there’s no denying this has been one of the safest places in the world to live in, especially as a woman.

Hameeda: I totally agree that Oman should be listed as one of the safest places a woman can live in this era.

Sushmita: This news didn’t come as a surprise at all. Oman is overall a very safe country for women. And had been that way for a while now.

Fe: I’d been working in the Sultanate for nearly 30 years. Since 1989, I exclusively worked with Omani families up until 2006. As a domestic worker, safety is always the number one factor I check upon. But in Oman, even us domestic workers feel like we are protected by the laws. We have this feeling that we can run to the authorities and will get the help we need. I’ve witnessed how the country has grown over the years, it has maintained that ‘safe’ feel.
In your organisation, how many of the employees are women? Of these, how many are expats? How important is it to provide a safe environment for them to work on?

Katrin: In the past 20 years working for Ritz-Carlton, I’ve seen more and more ladies coming into the hotel industry and also progressing in their careers in the hospitality industry. I think especially here in Oman, we have a lot of talented young Omanis that join us for a variety of management programmes after their university degree and it is great to see the passion for the hotel/hospitality industry amongst the Omani women. I have a couple on the team right now who I’m sure will have a very bright future ahead of them!

Hameeda: In my working place, the total working women are 50, 15 women are expats. it’s very crucial that each woman should feel safe and comfortable in her working zone, as it effects on the worker productivity and working environment.

Sushmita: Almost 60% are women. Out of that, 40-40% are expats. I don’t think organizations have to go out of their way to provide a safe space for women. Mostly because the work culture is stable with zero tolerance policies for harassment.

Fe: I used to work in households with two or three maids dividing the task. Women in the domestic work sectors, studies have shown, are usually the most abused. Fortunately, I haven’t experienced this toxic working environment. I’ve been through six different families and all of them made sure that I get the rest and benefits that I deserve.

What do you think are the factors that make Oman a safe place? And would you personally recommend Oman as a great place to work in?

Katrin: I think its key. At the Ritz-Carlton we have an employee promise. We promise to all our ladies and gentlemen that we respect and treat them well with honesty and dignity. And I think as a lady myself, it is sometimes of utmost importance that they feel safe and respected and it’s such a powerful thing to back your people up in the good times and the bad.

Hameeda: The country’s policies and rules that stated clearly women are equal to men in everything, and their rights are reserved even in Islam religion. I can go whenever and wherever I want in Oman without any issues regarding safety. I highly recommend anyone who is searching for a safe place to live choose Oman.

Sushmita: Personally my experience working here has been great. And I feel if at any point anyone would face any sort of harassment, management would take it very seriously. Be it expat or Omani there would be no difference.

Fe: People here have a sense of community and everyone is aware of the law. Because the population has been taken cared of very well, it is easy to track the wrongdoers. People learn to respect authorities as well and a majority of the people submit to the governing rules. Because of the great leadership of His Majesty, peace, order and therefore safety, had been safeguarded through the years. If Oman wasn’t safe for women, I wouldn’t have encouraged my niece to come and join me here. She’s also working as a domestic worker and so far, things have been good.

The number one SAFEST COUNTRY ON the list is Luxembourg. Are there specific areas Oman needs to work on so it becomes number 1?

Katrin: The only thing to improve that I can think of is with regard to traffic and road accidents. I am aware that better road safety is something that is and has been on the agenda and every day new rules and regulations are being implemented to make the lives of those of us in Oman even safer! Living and working here, I can’t say this would change my opinion of what it is like to work and live here and would definitely recommend it,

Hameeda: Public transportation. In Oman, there are some taboos and traditional stereotypes regarding women using public transportation such as buses and taxis, which I think the society should overcome these taboos; so the women feel more comfortable while using public transportation.

Fe: Personally, I would want better programmes for women not just for the locals but all women in general. It’s seldom that you have programmes were women, especially within our working level, to have the opportunity to interact with other nationalities for social and cultural affairs. We need an avenue to also advance our knowledge.

YERU EBUEN & TITASH CHAKRABORTY

(With report from Lakshmi Kothaneth)