TheWeek salutes the spirit and successes of Omani women
On the occasion of Omani Women’s Day today, ten forward-looking women express the essence of womanhood and evaluate the challenges that need to be tackled for women to grow and shine on all fronts. Here’s what they have to say:
Dr Halima al Maskari
First Omani lady surgeon, consultant – Al Hayat Hospital
Oman is no longer a male-dominated society. Women have proved themselves since the mid-1990s when His Majesty the Sultan declared on Renaissance Day to educate, train and employ women to work hand-in-hand with men. And the work force was raised by 33 per cent.
We have women as ministers, in the State Council, as designers, role models, in cricket/football teams, as sailors/pilots, as well as holding senior management positions in the private and public sectors, let alone women entrepreneurs who have established their own medium scale and large companies, ranging from bukhoor or perfume outlets to law firms. They now do not feel left behind. Every woman has the freedom to establish herself and rise higher. Omani women are flowers that bloom with talents, but never wilt.
The old theory that women have to be home-bound and produce children is over. They are essential contributors to Omani society where they have high positions. This is due to their dedication, perseverance and sheer determination. Challenging the opposite gender – which is the main obstacle – needs to be done by cooperating and working hand-in-hand, not against them.
A woman’s capacity is within herself. It is not a weak tool, but a potential one; she has to inspire and support other women. Women have to be empowered financially to establish themselves. In specialised fields, they have to be given equal fortuity. It’s my call to young women in Oman to be prospective, ambitious and grab opportunities whenever they come by. Together, we can do it!
Dr Laila Harub al Kharusi
Dentist, co-owner, Harub Dental Surgery
Omani women have been fortunate that His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said has set out equal paths for them to take in whatever goals they want to achieve. So, potentially, the sky is the limit. The strength of Omani women stems from the support of His Majesty, the Sultan; women just need to examine opportunities, compete in the commercial market and prove themselves globally.
The only challenge, I believe, is in the individual in question and not their gender, as such. Working in the private sector, I have not encountered a gender-related hurdle. One must evaluate one’s own weaknesses and accept constructive criticism and construe that in a positive manner to grow and overcome the barriers ahead of oneself. It is my belief that Omani women have proven to be equal competitors to men and work hard to achieve higher goals. I am proud and humbled by their progress so far.
Balqees al Hassni
Vice president, Knowledge Oman
Today, Omani women have notable presence in many dimensions of life, and are appointed to many of the highest offices. Under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Omani women have been given equal opportunities to prove themselves in the public and private sectors. His Majesty has been continually supporting Omani women to rise and participate in varied fields to make the best of their potential and education so they can have a role in contributing to the wealth of the country.
At Knowledge Oman, women are given equal opportunity to demonstrate their potential; I have been the vice president of Knowledge Oman for the past two years. Before that, Knowledge Oman was run by a female president. Even today, many functions of the platform are run by women. We continue to support, develop and acknowledge the strength and potential of women.
Today, women need to be provided with equal opportunities and empowerment. Removing barriers that do not acknowledge women’s progress at the workplace will help them demonstrate their full potential and ignite sustainable economic growth. Family support and encouragement have always been a positive influence for women’s progress. However, some traditional practices still restrict them to their maternal role, which makes it difficult to have a work-life balance or to unleash their full potential.
Senior manager of a leading company, oil and gas sector
A majority of Omani women are quite strong and have immense potential to grow in any field due to their determination. Women in Oman have reached very high positions in the past ten years. We have top women entrepreneurs, those who are running factories, are pilots, health centre owners, artists and many more. They are the backbone of Oman and can take any workplace challenge. I must admit that the main hurdle in any organisation is the management, which widely supports males over females. They always see women as more emotional and sensitive and, therefore, have males as their first choice, specifically for higher managerial roles. However, it’s been observed in many organisations that women bring in improved management styles and thereby grow in different fields.
H H Sayyida Hujaija al Said
Chairperson, Association for the Welfare of Handicapped Children
I am proud to be an Omani woman. First, as a woman, born and raised in Oman.
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said has always given us women rights equal to men, by giving us equal opportunities to education, jobs and holding even the highest positions in government such as ambassadors, undersecretaries and ministers. A woman has an equal right as a man when it comes to voting and nominating members for our parliament -Majlis al Shura. I am also proud because, thanks to the policies of His Majesty, we live in a peaceful country with free education and healthcare for all citizens.
Over the years the country has witnessed rapid development in all walks of life including infrastructure, telecommunications, education, transport, social welfare, tourism and more. And in all these areas, Omani women have played an equally important role to that of Omani men.
Let us follow the footsteps of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said on the path which he has laid for us. Let us work together, hand in hand, to realise the vision he set for our country. We must work side by side, men and women, to protect what we have and build on it further. This way we can ensure a better life for our children and following generations to come.
Baida al Zadjali
Entrepreneur, proprietor of a project management consultancy
Omani women have proven in so many ways – in different industries and in many positions both, vertically and horizontally – that they are more than capable and committed. Their potential and strength are endless, provided opportunities and chances are available.
Myself and Atheer al Sabri, along with our British friend Janey, walked 760km across the Empty Quarter from Al Hashman to Ibri in 28 days. Nadhira al Harthy conquered Mt Everest. Rumaytha al Busaidi reached the South Pole.
Also, today, we have ministers who are women. We have university deans and world-class researchers who are women. We have Omani women entrepreneurs. All this is indicative of the potential of Omani women.
There is, however, still some cultural resistance to women in higher positions, a glass ceiling which is evident in the latest news on Omanis rising to senior positions in various organisations. Women account for just under 50 per cent of the population, so we really need to see this percentage represented in these positions, too.
Nashat al Riyami
Department Head of Retail Roaming Services, Ooredoo
Gone are the days when Omani men and women would be differentiated. Today, women can work as specialists, team leaders, managers or even as a CEO of a company, pretty much as what men used to do and are doing today. Omani women do have the strength, the qualification and the necessary education to have the same opportunity as men get and have, be it in private business, for private companies or even in the government per se. We have prominent specialists, CEOs and even undersecretaries and ministers today, who are women. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and we can see the leading strength of women in varied fields in the sultanate today.
I started as a junior SIM and numbering specialist in Ooredoo and grew in my career to managing post-paid, payment channels to heading a high-value segment division. Today, I’m proud to be the only female department heading retail marketing, overseeing the Roaming Services Department that looks at enabling travelers to use their mobile phones abroad with attractive and worry-free offers that are convenient for our customers – that itself is de facto of women taking care of business, pretty much as what men can or would do.
The work-life balance is, probably, the number one challenge that needs to be addressed, for ladies have home and family commitments to cater to, in addition to serving and working for companies. Furthermore, gender bias should also be looked into, for men still are given preference in some organisations where women can equally, if not better, perform on those designated roles.
Statistically, female graduates from universities score higher than their male peers. Nevertheless, you could visually see that higher roles are mainly dominated in numbers by males as opposed to females. This, if aligned, would see women taking up more roles and as a result, supporting the development of the economy and the growth of the nation as a whole. I’m saying this based on facts and merits of the few who are already impacting society in a grand way.
Hamdah al Shamsi
Columnist and speaker
Omani women now live in the golden era. I believe, we are at present the most fortunate women in the world.
His Majesty, the Sultan, made it his mission to make women equal to men. We never had an issue with gender equality in this country. We had equal right for education, training, jobs opportunities and political participation. We are also among the few countries in the world where we have equal pay for men and women for the same job.
The fact that we are Muslim women living in this part of the world where we are not obligated to work for economical reasons made our participation in the workforce very low. And the fact that we don’t also stay long enough in the jobs made it difficult for us to advance the career ladder.
When others see the numbers, especially international organisations, they are fast to judge that we have an issue of a gender gap. This is not the case. Work is never a priority for Omani women because we value family life. It is that simple.
Those women who choose to work outside the home made great success stories in every field. The rest decided to build that success in the form of rais-ing successful children and supporting successful husbands. However you define success and contribution, I believe Omani women are doing well and are continuing to progress in all fields of life.
It is not just a matter of lack of opportunities, it’s a matter of cultural differences, she asserts.