The epics of Queen Shamsaa, also known as the queen of Oman, have crossed my path. Reading about her role in the pre-Islamic era reinforced my views on the strength of Omani women.
We can start with Queen Shamsaa but there are also Khadija, Aisha, and many other inspirational women from the past and present who had the pulse of social and economic developments within their communities and the country. And, let us not forget the women who became a force in the days when the Omani men had to go abroad for long periods of time for work.
The historical background about women in Oman in the academic article “Renaissance returned Omani Women in Politics”, by Maryam bint Said al Kharousiyah, is a gem.
The military and political roles of Moza Ahmad are well-documented. Her bravery in protecting Muscat and the throne is fascinating. Her audacity in testing the loyalty of her soldiers is awesome, especially when one considers women to be weak and gullible.
Other inspirational women were Salima who had a solid political role in the 19th century, and Al Galia Nasser, who led armies, and is also known for her political skills in negotiation.
Could you ever possibly think that a woman would head a revolution in the country? Well, the literature says that Joukh bint Mohammed did just that: the Suwaiq revolution in 1830.
Before the 1970s, when the country was isolated from the rest of the world, it experienced civil wars as well as economic and social problems. During that time, women stayed at home. Their roles had mostly been confined to marriage, motherhood, and domestic duties. The lack of education and poverty did not make them weaker. On the contrary, they proved themselves beyond any doubt.
Having the men go abroad for long periods for work, the Omani women became mothers, fathers, and teachers, by taking care of the family. Though, still, nowadays, there are women in the rural and mountain areas that have a keen interest in entrepreneurship engagement – despite a lack of social or economic support.
The gap between the Queen Shamsaa era and the (re) integration of women in the country’s development, starting in the 70s, is buried in the literature. Different versions may have obscured them due to a multi-faced tapestry of the social fabric - but the women were never weak.
The problem with bits and pieces of accounts is that sometimes details can be difficult to verify. History tells us that women in Oman went through various stages in which they rose and faded - not because they were incapacitated, but because they were undermined.
At the beginning of the renaissance period, women had a great role, and one example is Sharifa bint Mohammed, who came from an upbringing familiar with sciences, journalism, and politics - and she made history by establishing radio broadcasting news in Swahili.
Looking back to better appreciate today when we have an increasing number of girls working in the media, technological sciences, and aviation, as well as participating in extreme sports, or travelling abroad to further their education is only natural. They have been reviving their merits. They are modern within their boundaries – and fulfilling their goals.
They are more empowered than ever before thanks to social media. According to studies, social media has contributed to them becoming more involved in political and civil actions, and playing an important role in society. Indeed, social media has enabled them to stand out in a myriad of areas. Though, they didn’t need social media to achieve their successes or to be bold in the past.
It is enlightening to learn how women have been intrinsically part of Oman’s history and development in all fields.