Discussion on whether or not participation in militant/national movements and/or political struggles will bring about women’s rights and empowerment for women in parts of the Middle East
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Since time memorial women in the Middle East have experienced denial of formal voice and office where they could express their rights. They have got no place where their opinions, ideas and actions could be mobilised for the well being of the society. Engagement in politics is not only an activity meant for men but women must also be involved.
This is what has led to the participation of women in national movements, military and politics to enable them also be heard by the society. These channels present good sites and vehicles for negotiation of women rights and modification of their lives, since it is easier to challenge the authority from these points (Suad and Slyomovics, 5-10).
Several examples have been outlined of successful Muslim women who have ascended to power through participation in National movements. This gives lots of hope to future generations that empowerment of women in the Middle East is a possibility and will one day materialize.
Barakzai, Muslim lady from Afghanistan rose successfully into political power by winning a parliamentary seat. Also, the likes of Yanar Mohammed from Iraq who has been an active voice for women’s rights and even contributed in the establishment an organization championing for human rights in Iraq. These illustrations bring better understanding on the future freedom that awaits women within Middle East society (Ida).
The relationship that exists between women and their responsibilities within the Middle East society has been greatly affected by the law which presents them as inferior to men (Ahmed 66). The laws are basically formed from the religious point of view hence do not provide any separation between government and religion.
The religious courts and family courts present powerful institutions in the Middle East and these acts as major obstacle towards development of women within the society. This is because these institutions are known to be gender biased and confers much power to one entity which leads to poor allocation of rights. Cases concerning women have not been considered due to gender biased rulings (Suad and Slyomovics, 10-20).
National movements offer women with opportunity for championing their rights by enhancing their participation in politics within Middle East. The movements’ especially civil societies act as good catalysts for the involvement of women in politics and provide them with alternative vehicle that enables them to fight for their rights both within and outside families (Suad and Slyomovics).
Civil societies have taken the initiative of equipping women with necessary skills that enables them fight diligently in ways that would eventually improve their lives. Women have offered support during political struggles through their active participation in the processes involved. Women are better peace negotiators than men since they are more concerned and disposed towards compromise and also have got the ability to contain their attitudes towards international conflict (Frances).
Do women find more rights and freedoms through employment?
Statistics in the Middle East shows that there exists big disparity in gender literacy level and education resulting into low women employment. Middle East societies focus their attention on the duration of time that women have had suffrage rights. They look at the possibilities of women contributing to labour force through employment and even getting involved in active politics.
Employment and education presents vital tools that have enhanced women’s participation in building Middle East societies. This is because employment offers women opportunities for making informed decisions and make contributions to public forums as well as getting involved in important government duties.
Employment opportunities present women with the chance to learn same critical type of arguments that men enjoy within Middle East societies. In most of the Muslim Nations women can attain high education level but still the law denies them to acquire critical skills which could enhance their leadership skills. Though employed women are only allowed to occupy subordinate positions, which denies them the power to challenge or question society trends (Suad and Slyomovics, 10).
Employment opportunities help women discover the degree of influence and informal power that they posses and the way they could appropriately utilize that power to change family perception within Middle East. This creates some internal sense of freedom before manifestation on the outside, which may counteract the level of oppression received from the society. The exercise of women power in the Middle East on negotiation of public space, experiences less attention due to women’s informal status within Islamic societies (Frances).
However, in some sectors the education and employment of women is seen as an improvement and enforcement towards the social change. Good evidence is in Iran where women are currently being recognized as potential voters.
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More freedom could be gained through employment since it will be a good show that even women are capable of performing some difficult tasks which were only left for men; this brings to the true realization of gender equality even without much fight. The only issue it has affected is the marital life since men shy away from marrying women with high education credentials (Frances).
Employment have brought complete shift on the social life of women since according to middle East culture, women were considered underdogs making them seek permission from their husbands whenever they want to go to work. This issue might change since the Educated and employed women discover importance of freedom and finds it difficult to cope with gender biased traditional and religious laws of the society.
These include issues like seeking permission from their husbands before they could indulge in developmental activities. This shows that employment brings complete shift in the mind of women on the importance of freedom from gender slavery and the traditional social roles (Ahmed 67).
Men in the Middle East, who are used to the practice of male chauvinism, find it very uncomfortable with women who stay away for long hours in the name of working since women are expected to look after the children and stay home long enough.
Education and employment makes the women to champion for workload sharing at home between them and their husbands which is very much a contradiction of the traditional ways. There is strong belief in some Middle East countries that women who work hard would overtake their male counterparts and hence act as appropriate instruments for social and political freedom and change. (Ahmed 50-66).
Employment of women in high offices brings sharp contradiction to the traditional Islamic laws and norms within Middle East countries. These laws regarded women as inferior beings and reinforced the social barriers that could be used to enforce women’s participation in nation building.
Employment and education ensures that women are no longer linked to such norms as high reproduction, low literacy levels, and low participation in labor force. These lead to freedom from the rule that believes that women must only find shelter and protection from outside world in her husband and nothing else (Suad and Slyomovics 40-45).
How about pitting militant activism against work and job opportunities?
The inclusion of women in military activities is one of the most unwelcome issues within the middle East, women’s natural attitude towards humanity have received oppression out of these actions. Some secular groups argue that military involvement presents women with the opportunity of demonstrating their committed involvement alongside their male counterparts. This is only used as a weapon to lure men into full participation on military issues (Bloom 30).
This do not present the best way of fighting for women rights since it carries together with it an element of comparison and makes women vulnerable to be misused by men. Example is the notion in Iraq which champions for the superiority of the women within military camps by indicating that men should not let women perform physical activities like military war while they watch, since fighting is men’s rather than women responsibility (Bloom 32).
Women’s commitment to war is seen as too emotional to help resolve their move towards championing for their rights. Men find it is easier to use women to bypass strong security checkpoints and commit suicide bombing since they do not arouse any form of suspicion as men. They can easily blend with the common civilians and effectively hit their targets. Volunteering for terrorist attacks is one of the poorest forms of championing for women rights (Bloom 40-41).
Ahmed, Leila. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.
Bloom, Mia. Female suicide bombers: a global trend. Daedalus. 136.1 (Wntr 2007): 94(9). Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. CSU Sacramento University Library.
Frances, Harrison. Women graduates challenge Iran. BBC News, Tehran, 19th September, 2006. <https://www.bbc.com/>. 6th December, 2010.
Ida, Lichter. Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices against Oppression, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2010. <https://www.britannica.com/>. 6th December, 2010.
Suad, Joseph & Susan, Slyomovics (Eds). Women and Power in the Middle East. 2010. University of Pennsylvania Press.