Equal partners in nation building and development

Muscat: Over the past 50 years of the blessed Renaissance, Omani women have made slow and steady strides across various sectors setting a role model for their sisters across the world.

These achievements have won the Sultanate earned international commendation for gender equality, elimination of all types of discrimination by granting them all social, economic and political rights in line with the Basic Law of the State, International Human Rights Conventions, Oman Vision 2040 and Social Action Strategy 2016-2025.

The Sultanate on Saturday marked Omani Women’s Day, which falls on October 17 every year. The day was designated by late Sultan Qaboos in 2009 to recognise women’s vital role as essential partners of development as well as in the upbringing of future generations and social growth.

The dedication of the day to women also comes in consolidation of the approach of partnership espoused by the comprehensive development march since its inception in 1970. The overall aim is to felicitate women and celebrate their continuous contribution in nation building.

Since the launch of the Sultanate’s modern renaissance under the leadership of the late Sultan Qaboos, women have had unlimited access to participation in economic and social development.

To reaffirm his resolve to pursue the march of the blessed renaissance, His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik, in his nation address in February 2020, reaffirmed that women will continue to enjoy their full rights as guaranteed by the law. Women, he said, will work alongside men in different fields and will serve their country and society. This stems from the importance of citizens’ participation in shaping the present and future of their country. It is also based on the belief that  women are considered a basic pillar of development.

In Oman Vision 2040, emphasis is on a suitable environment for women to strongly participate in various aspects of economic, social and political life in a manner that empowers them and enables them to actively enhance efforts of comprehensive, sustainable development.

Women constitute 49.7 per cent of Oman’s population. In the 0-17 years’ age group, they account for 42.8 per cent of the population. The gender ratio of men to women is 101:100, according to 2019 figures.

Omani Women’s Associations (OWA) in the wilayats of the Sultanate are considered among institutions that support women’s empowerment. There are 65 OWAs that serve as parent organizations for Omani women’s training centres and rural women’s development centres.  The OWAs foster the role of women volunteers and social activists for women’s cause. They spread cultural, social, health and economic awareness. They train women to help them benefit from the government’s livelihood projects.

Women’s associations participate in the Sultan Qaboos Social Work Prize. The 15-category award encourages voluntary work, an inseparable part of Omani civil society. It also seeks to encourage various aspects of cooperation and social responsibility among civil society institutions.

Omani women enjoy modern healthcare. The aim of which is to cut down morbidity and mortality rates. Women’s life expectancy averaged 79.2 years and men 75.2 years in 2019. Mothers’ mortality rate dropped from 18.3 per 1000 newborns in 2014 to 10.3 per 1000 newborns in 2019.

The Sultanate perceives education as an important sector of sustainable development that promotes prosperity, health and gender equality. Many factors led to the reinforcement of women’s role as active partners in society. These include their access to education and work and their participation in different development fields. Women’s access to good basic and higher education contributed to access to higher posts and specialist areas.

Education and health

The government provides free education for girls from Class 1 to Class 12. As per the Child Law (22/2014), education is compulsory till Class 10. The percentage of girls in classes 10-12 stood at 96.5 per cent during the school year 2018/2019, while illiteracy dropped considerably from 11.4 per cent in 2014 to 6.5 per cent in 2019.

Statistics show a high rate of Omani girls’ joining higher education institutions within the Sultanate and abroad. Girls have equal rights as boys for higher education seats. Girls’ registration in higher education stood at 73 per cent and they bagged 40 per cent of scholarships.

Social security

Women constituted 59.7 per cent of Social Security Scheme beneficiaries while girls claimed 64 per cent of scholarships and grants for Social Security Scheme beneficiary families in 2018-2019.  Women received 74.5 per cent of the Haj grants for Social Security Scheme beneficiary families.

Role in private sector 

Omani women registered many success stories in the private sector. They account for 33.2 per cent of the overall workforce of the government and private sector in July 2020. Their percentage in the private sector stood at 26.4 per cent or 66,400 workers in 2019.

According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information indicate that the percentage of Omani women working in the government sector stood at 41.9% and that 83,587 Omani women are registered in the public sector’s retirement fund in 2019. The centre also shows that women constituted 61 per cent of the education ministry employees and 60.8 per cent of health ministry employees in the first half of 2019.

Shura participation

Legislations guaranteed women the right to participate in politics. The Majlis Ash’Shura Elections Law, promulgated by Royal Decree No. 58/2013 based on Basic Law of the State, grants both men and women equal right to candidacy and voting.

The ninth election of Majlis Ash’Shura (2019-2023), held in October last year, saw a rise in the number of candidates compared to the previous term. Forty women contested the elections from among 637 candidates for 86 seats of the Majlis. Of the total number of voters (713,335), women were 337,534 voters (47.3%). In this term, two women won membership to the Majlis, while another was nominated as a member of the State Council.

Omani women’s experience in Municipal Councils came in tandem with the government’s approach to women’s empowerment. Four of them found a place in Municipal Councils’ first term, while seven of them won seats during elections for the Councils’ second term (2016-2020). The proportion of voters in Municipal Councils’ elections rose from 28.6 per cent in the first term to 46 per cent in the second term of these councils.

 Diplomacy

Women also showed their mettle as diplomats. Omani women are now members in international organisations, among them one is the chairperson of Coordination Committee for Women Parliamentarians at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (October 2014) and the former Permanent Representative of the Sultanate in the UN chaired the UN Media Committee from April 2013 to April 2015. Omani women represented the Sultanate as ambassadors in a number of countries, and they still do, and their proportion to men as ambassadors stands at 7 per cent. This is in addition to Omani women as members in international organisations like the Islamic Organisation for Science and Culture, as the Sultanate’s Permanent Representative to the UN and the World Trade Organisation. Oman was the first GCC state to have women as representatives in meetings of under-secretaries and the Consultative Authority.

Omani women carried the message of peace in different countries of the world and they sketch an honorable image in building bridges with countries of the world alongside Omani men.

Role in research

In the field of scientific research, Prof. Salma bint Mohammed al Kindi made Oman and Omani women proud when she was selected by the US State Department to enter the hall of famous women in the field of sciences for the Middle East region. In 2017, Al Kindi received the Life Achievement Award from Venus Institution of India in recognition for her contribution to Chemistry. Al Kindi was also elected in 2012 as the first Omani woman to Fellow to the International Science Academy. She had also occupied the post of Dean of College of Science at Sultan Qaboos University, being the first woman to occupy the post in the college’s history.

Another Omani, Dr Mona bint Mohammed al Habsi worked as team member of Japanese Prof. Tasuku Hugo who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2018. Her research focused on combating cancer by boosting the immune system.

Women are in the forefront of agriculture and fisheries to ensure the nation’s food security. They are active in poultry, cattle rearing, tanning, bee keeping and various types of food industries.

In the field of sports, the departments concerned at the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, the Omani Olympic Committee and the Sultan Qaboos University encourage and prepare Omani women to participate in international events. Accordingly, Omani girls carried the Sultanate’s flag at international sports events.

The government granted women 47 per cent of the total number of land plots in 2019. Omani women bagged 45 per cent of driving licences issued in 2019. ONA