Interview with Ameera Alqattaf, Parliamentary Relations Development Supervisor, Council of Representatives, Kingdom of Bahrain
The Euro-Gulf Information Center, striving to maintain a comprehensive outlook on the region of the Arab Gulf, is quite interested in exploring the evolution of the political, economic and social status of women in the region. The role of women in Arab Gulf society is rapidly changing in all aspects. Women are increasingly seen as active citizens able to give a major contribution to their country’s political, economic, social realms. Of course, there are significant differences across each of the GCC countries. This series wants to keep track of these changes as they happen. Building upon direct testimonies of women from the Gulf countries, the EGIC will publish interviews, analyses, commentaries, surveys and on-the-ground research about the ever-changing role of Women in the GCC.
In this work of the series we deal with the issue of women in politics, specifically in the Kingdom of Bahrain. We sat with Ameera Alqattaf, Parliamentary Relations Development Supervisor, Inter-parliamentary Group Department, from Bahrain’s Council of Representatives, to discover more from the source about the challenges and opportunities for women in politics in one of the most progressive states of the GCC.
EGIC: Dear Ameera, thank you so much for taking the time to help us discover the world of women in Bahraini politics. Our first question is: do you find that the number of women active in politics has increased over the past few years in Bahrain? And the GCC in general? If yes, why?
Definitely yes. The number of active women in politics has really increased over the past few years in Bahrain as well as the GCC. Let me first clarify why I can see that clearly in Bahrain.
The situation in Bahrain is unique among our neighbours in the GCC, because of the political changes that happened since the issuance of the National Charter in 2001 and the transformation of the country from a state into a constitutional kingdom since 2002. Those changes came along with the establishment of the Supreme Council for Women, an advisory body to the government on women issues chaired by HRH Princess Sabeeka Bin Ebrahim Alkhalifa, wife of the King. Since its establishment in 2001, the Council promotes women’s rights in all fields in society including the political one. Today, Bahrain has nine women members at the Shura Council (appointed by HM the King), including a Jewish and a Christian woman, representatives for the Jewish and Christian minorities in Bahrain. There are also three female members at the Council of Representatives (the elected parliament), a female minister, a number of female judges, an increasing number of high official women in all the ministers and authorities of the government.
Other example from the rest of the Gulf include, an impressive situation in the United Arab Emirates, where young women have been appointed as Ministers as well as Speaker of the Parliament, and significant steps taken in Saudi Arabia where a Royal Order issued in 2013 appointed thirty women as members of the Shura Council (a Consultative Council appointed by the King).
EGIC: As for yourself, what is the main reason that made you deciding to undertake a political career?
I was very much interested in politics since I was a student at high school. In the longer-term, one of my ambitions is to be an Ambassador representing Bahrain one day in one of the decision- making countries in the world, and I am really working hard to achieve this ambition. It is a big objective, but I strongly feel that I will succeed to have it realized.
EGIC: What are the main challenges that you experienced in your career path?
Managing my team effectively, in the context of politics, is the main challenge for me. It is not easy to lead a team encouraging every member to be proactive, hard-working, committed, perceptive and well-informed. Of course when you already have a strong team, the challenge is diminished, but it will still depend on my skills and administrative abilities as a supervisor to ensure work processes as it should. Another challenge is keeping up with the changes that occur rapidly in this world. In fact, given the pace at which developments that are significant for my job happen, I have to read as much as possible to be aware of what is going on.
EGIC: Given your specific role in Parliamentary Relations, you had the chance to interact with other parliamentary bodies around the world. What do you think is one lesson that Bahrain could export to other countries? On the contrary, what kind of technical cooperation with other Parliaments might be useful for the Kingdom?
I think we can export the lessons we have learnt in drafting the documentations and procedures for each of the international inter-parliamentary events, because we have by now accumulated some valuable experience. On the contrary, we are always interested in finding new and more effective techniques for producing quickly and effectively items for the emergency assembly meetings. In addition to that and would like to benefit from the procedures employed by other parliaments in writing the amendments of the draft resolutions.
EGIC: What are the main issues related to inter-gender interaction in Bahraini politics? Did you ever feel work was easier for your male colleagues?
I don’t think there is any main issue in this regard. There are normal challenges related to the nature of politics, common all over the world, and they don’t differ that much when interacting with colleagues from the same or the opposite gender. Bahrain is a multi-cultural country that has empowered women in politics, business and society. Women’s status in Bahrain is really impressive. Therefore, I have never felt that there is a difference in working with males or females in terms of politics. For me, both are the same. I have a number of colleagues from both genders who are equally smart and cooperative in Bahrain, as well as in some international parliamentary organizations.
EGIC: Are female politicians treated differently by the electorate compared to their male colleagues?
In my opinion, there is no difference at all and, overall, the Bahraini community today trusts women in power. In the past decade, the perspective of the Bahraini people on women in politics has very much changed positively indeed.
EGIC: Do you think that women are adequately represented in the country’s political institutions?
Of course not. There is a good representation of women in politics in Bahrain, but as a woman, I look forward to seeing an increasing number of women involved in politics in my country. I am however optimistic that this will happen in the near future.
EGIC: How do you think increased women’s participation in Bahraini political life can impact the development of the Kingdom?
Clearly, gender equality is an issue that is being called upon internationally. I strongly believe that international organizations would never call for objectives that decrease societal development. Actually, “Gender Equality” is even one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations. Therefore, an increased participation of Bahraini women in politics will definitely develop the country, as well as represent a significant step to ensure sustainable development.
EGIC: Do you have concerns for the future of women’s political participation in the GCC? Or do you think it will only increase?
No concerns at all. I am sure it will increase in all GCC states.
EGIC: What would you suggest to young Bahraini women who want to undertake the political career?
They should be proactive, read as much as they can, follow national and international events, take up courses in politics, international and public relations, international comparative law as well as in management. They should also work very hard to achieve their ambitions. And they should be prepared that they will face many challenges in their career life, because things never come without patience and working hard.