Happy Holidays! Here’s my gift to all my readers: my latest opinion piece on gender equality in Qatar, published by JustHere.qa.
Qatar is doing many things right. The Qatar National Development Strategy 2011-2016 states women’s empowerment as a key developmental objective. It lists many goals for its citizen women, including increasing the number of Qatari women in the workforce, increasing leadership positions for them, and even “reducing the stereotyping of women’s roles and responsibilities.”
But if true equality for women is to be achieved in Qatar, much needs to be done. A patriarchal mindset is still the norm here. When I have reported on women’s issues here in the past and wanted to interview men, I was warned by Qatari colleagues not to use “bad” terms such as feminism and women’s empowerment because the interviewees would think I was advocating taking power away from men.
One issue that particularly hits deep for me is the Qatari cultural taboo that prevents many women from showing their faces in news photos, videos or advertisements, even if they don’t wear a niqab in every day life. Since I teach video and photojournalism, of course it upsets me to hear that most of my Qatari women students will never stop in front of a camera for their professional careers, all because their families think doing so might sully their reputation and lessen the daughter’s marriage prospects. I wrote about this issue recently for Chime For Change and how this taboo prevents so many talented Qatari women from “claiming the limelight that is their due.” At the universities here, I have witnessed Qatari women declining to be photographed even for benign and positive news stories, such as graduation or award announcements.
Many nationals acknowledge that gender inequality is still a major problem in Qatar. JustHere columnist Nasser Al Naama has written about the stubborn men who believe women shouldn’t be allowed to drive, even though women were awarded that right some two decades ago (Qatari women, however, must get their male guardian’s permission to obtain a license). And Nofe Al Suwaidi has decried the fact that Qatari women who marry non-Qatari men still cannot pass on citizenship to their children.