MUSCAT: A prominent issue during the eighth Majlis A’Shura elections has been the miniscule number of women contestants and the “lesser trust” people put in the Shura.
The only woman winner from the total 20 who ran for Majlis A’Shura seats nationwide is Nemah bint Jamiel bin Farhan al Busaidiya, re-elected from Seeb.
In Muscat governorate, eight women – three from the wilayat of Seeb – were in the fray.
Many feel that the only one woman being elected to the Shura is indicative of a general lack of trust in the Shura.
Sharifa al Barami, an entrepreneur who plays an active role on women’s causes, says, “Many of us feel that more powers should be granted to the Shura Council before more women take part. I did not vote because I feel that the council does not have a bigger voice, more powers.
There is also a need for a quota for women because men tend to campaign as representatives for their tribes and regions.”
Women contestants’ campaigns, whereas, focus on issues that affect communities, she feels. “These are important, but don’t get votes. This discourages women for entering the elections,” Sharifa says.
Habiba al Hinai, a human rights activist says it will be some more time before the Majlis A’Shura has more women.
“The Shura, till now, is just like a government body.” Habiba says that she has never voted in the Shura polls.
According to her, the Majlis A’Shura is not the platform if women really want to make a difference.
“To be frank, women are more honest in whatever they do, and they should not waste their time running for Shura if they really wish to make a difference in society. We have many highly educated women who just don’t want to come forward and contest because they feel it won’t be any good,” Habiba said.
Dr Mohammed al Habsi, advisor in the Majlis A’Shura differs. “We have less women participation because those who contest are not up to the level of their male counterparts,” he said.
On women’s demand for a quota, Dr Habsi says they should win on their own merit. “If quota system is needed, there has to be a detailed study on it. But if it is introduced, the competition between men and women will not be a balanced one. There are many women in the Shura staff who are very active. In fact, 40 per cent of our researchers are women.