In 1985 Kuwait introduced a political opportunity to its people—both men and women were allowed to vote. The right for women to vote was later removed. In May 2005 that right was reinstated for women and I still remember sitting in the back of the car after my mother picked me up and hearing about it on the Marina FM radio station when I was 10 years old.
Ten years later I have not seen or heard of any encouragement for women to run for parliament, in fact many teachers have talked about why it’s a bad thing, in an attempt to discourage me and my classmates from voting and/or considering running for parliament in the future.
Is it not enough that women are persecuted for wanting their basic human birthrights. To this day a woman can not have an O-BGYN visit without a male approval, or renew their passport without a male family member, putting their lives and health at risk. Women are afraid to leave the house at night due to the enforced ideology that a woman who goes out with her friends, sisters or mother after dark is not to be respected.
Many women and men shy away from asking for help from the opposite gender at school or work in order not to be looked at negatively by other people. Luckily men and women in Kuwait are some of the few that have the freedom to have a wide set of an emotional range, men can be sensitive and women can be tough; sadly at another university that I attended prior to Temple, a male Kuwaiti colleague of mine told me that I work too hard for a woman, that I should try to work less hard so the men can catch up and everything would be back in its place.
Once a guy from Temple told me to dress like a woman when I ran into him as I was walking to class at 8 a.m. I am frustrated that he doesn’t realize that I won’t waste sleep so that he would have something to look at.
I am disappointed. Even at Temple, men act as if they have some power over what you do, say, or even who you befriend, all in the name of tradition, without realizing that neither here nor back home do they have any such authority.
After all of these years of both women and men fighting for equality in this country these ideologies are still being reinforced by society. I have met many men from Kuwait who will endorse women’s rights, in fact, they are the majority—but when a small group of people has a louder voice than the big group, it is that voice that will be heard.
We must do something, the idea that women must be lesser than men, this discouragement that has been presented time and time again is unacceptable. I write this as a basis for discussion. I invite every Kuwaiti man and woman to express their thoughts on this. If we do not open doors for a conversation on equality then no progress will happen, and we will be left way behind in terms of progress and equality.
Ayah Alkhars is a freshman journalism student. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.