Women in Bahrain
The Women in Bahrain are Asian women who are generally more publicly active than in other Arab countries. Being highly educated, most Bahraini women are well represented in all of the major professions, women’s societies, and women’s organizations. Apart from having the right to vote, around one-quarter of the women of Bahrain are able to hold jobs outside the confines of the household.
Attire, appearance, and behavior
Although some Bahraini women wear head-covers while in public places, many of them are not completely veiled. The traditional garments of the women of Bahrain include the jellabiya, a long, loose dress, which is one of the preferred clothing style for the home and the workplace. Bahraini women may practice the Muhtashima, partially covering the hair, or the Muhajiba, fully covering the hair. Apart from covering the hair, covering the face is also practiced, namely the Burqa, partially covering the face, and the Mutanaqiba, fully covering the face. The practice of veiling is evident in both young and older women. In addition, the use of make-up, nail polish, and perfumes, or other accessories that attract attention are discouraged in public. Culturally, Bahrain’s unveiled women are discouraged from smiling at strangers, particularly to men who are not family members or those that are unrelated to them.
Roles in society
In the past, such as in the 1960s, the roles of Bahraini women depended on the roles or jobs of their husbands. Women who were wed to fishermen were supposed to assist their husbands in their trade as fish cleaners and fish vendors. The women who married farmers were supposed to act as farmland helpers and as produce marketers. In towns and cities, the women were traditionally assigned to do the house chores and the duty to take care of children. Wealthy Bahraini women, in general, would have at their command servants who would perform their daily chores for them. In addition, the women of Bahrain are renowned for their and expertise in traditional textile embroidery. This talent of Bahraini women is a reflection of the Bahraini culture and heritage.
During the last thirty years or so, the women of Bahrain have had opportunities deviate from their conventional roles in society. They were able to expand their roles and achieve careers in the fields of education, medicine, nursing practice and other health-related jobs, financing, clerical jobs, light manufacturing, banking profession, and veterinary science, among others.
One of the influences to Bahraini women’s point of view regarding the importance of education and fashion trends were the group of American missionaries from Brunswick, New Jersey who arrived in Bahrain during the late 1890s, as well as early expatriate female teachers from Egypt and Lebanon. The first secular school for women in Bahrain, the Al-Khadija Al-Kubra, was established in 1928. In the 1950s, the first group of Bahraini women studied in Cairo, Egypt and Beirut, Lebanon to become teachers and school principals in Bahrain. The first hospital-based Nursing School in Bahrain was founded in 1959. The opening of the College of Health Science gave opportunities for Bahraini women to practice as nurses. Women were able to study medicine and related fields in Jordan, Beirut, and Egypt. Women who did were able to profess as department heads, as deans of colleges and universities, and as professors.
In 1928, According to Farouk Amin, Bahrain became the first Gulf state to have education for women. Within the same lines, Bahrain also became the first Gulf state to have social organizations for women in 1965. In 2005, the Royal University for Women (RUW) became the first private, purpose-built, international university in the Kingdom of Bahrain dedicated solely to educating the country's women.
Right to vote
The women in Bahrain gained their right to vote during the parliamentary elections in October 2002. The 2002 election in Bahrain marked the first time that women could vote or run for a national office under an Arab Persian Gulf monarchy. The women of Bahrain became “enfranchised women” after the revisions in the constitution of Bahrain were ratified in 2002.
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