ANN AL KINDI –
It was in November 2011 that hundreds of Omani women marched at a parade under the conscientious eyes of their Sultan, as he stood to salute them.
This was not just a ceremonial gesture.
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos was making a statement.
He was rendering a declaration of empowerment and gender equality.
Even though His Majesty the Sultan was the first Arab leader to preside over a female-only military parade, this memorable moment was overlooked by political and social experts.
They say actions speak louder than words, and this gesture did more than that.
It served as a threshold to a new era.
And as Omani women climb the corporate ladder to reach posts as high as that of a minister, let us remember with gratitude the visionary leadership of His Majesty the Sultan who has been a motivating force for women in this country.
Of course, Omani women have not achieved success overnight.
But a well-planned strategy and unflinching support from His Majesty while respecting the cultural aspects have played a major role in this triumphant journey.
What started with ensuring right for education for girls has ended as a major accomplishment story.
Today, 47 years after the first Renaissance Day, we have 280,400 female students enrolled in public schools, making 49.7 per cent of total students, against 283,956 boys, according to 2016/2017 data of the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI). These numbers tell a compelling story.
As many first world countries are fighting for abolishing wage disparity based on sex, Oman’s public sector grants equal pay for both genders.
Today, Omani women represent 47 per cent of the working manpower registered in the civil services, all thanks to His Majesty’s directions.
But the numbers can be better when it comes to leadership positions.
While females make around half of the total local workforce, Oman had only three female ambassadors in 2016 and 19 female consultants against 228 men.
Moreover, locally and globally, the numbers are very shy in women’s membership in companies’ board of directors that even European nations use a quota system to ensure equal opportunity for both genders.
This reality brings us to a ‘glass-ceiling’, a term that refers to an invisible barrier that prevents qualified women from advancing in their careers.
The glass-ceiling index has nine point criteria including the number of women in the parliament, leadership posts and the days of maternity leave.
The numbers in Oman suggest that we do still have a thick glass-ceiling, and that was evident in the International Labour Organization (ILO) report titled ‘Woman in Business and Management’ which stated that the rate of women in managerial posts in public and private sectors is low.
Oman was positioned 101 among 108 countries.
On the other hand, more females with high education degrees were employed in the public sector in 2016 (278 women and 136 men). When modern countries grant a woman any ministerial positions, like of a foreign minister or finance minister, such appointments are not politically motivated decisions, but rather a fair assessment of women’s political excellence.
Women political empowerment was stated in the holy Quran as a norm not exception where I quote the Holy Quran which stated 1,400 centuries ago: “She (Balqees) said, ‘O eminent ones, advise me in my affair. I would not decide a matter until you witness [for] me.”
This verse clearly shows a woman’s political cleverness.
Today, as we commemorate the Omani Women’s Day, we should keep in mind that we have a long way to truly empower women here.
We hope the officials in charge follow His Majesty’s leading vision and implement it in real life.
A woman does not need awards to celebrate her, but men that support and empower women, shall be rewarded.