Official statistics indicate the achievements and success of Omani women over the past 50 years. These achievements took place at a time when the Sultanate earned international commendation for gender equality, elimination of all types of discrimination against girls by granting them all their social, economic and political rights in line with the Basic Law of the State, the Speeches of His Majesty the Sultan, International Human Rights Conventions, Oman Vision 2040 and Social Action Strategy.
The Sultanate celebrates Omani Women’s Day on October 17 — the day when the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said bin Taimur designated it in 2009 at the conclusion of a symposium held at Saih Al Makarim, Wilayat of Sohar. The Royal gesture came in recognition of women’s vital role as essential partners in domestic development at all levels, including the upbringing of generations, family growth cohesion and social collaboration.The aim is to felicitate women and celebrate their continuous, brilliant contribution to the rebuilding parade.
Since the launch of the Sultanate’s modern renaissance under the leadership of the late Sultan Qaboos, May the Almighty Allah have mercy on his soul, women have had unlimited access to participation in economic and social development.
To reaffirm his resolve to pursue the march of the blessed renaissance, His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik, in his nation address in February 2020, reaffirmed that women will continue to enjoy their full rights as guaranteed by the law. Women, he said, will work alongside men in different fields and will serve their country and society.
This concept stems from the importance of citizens’ participation in shaping the present and future of their country and it departs from the vantage point that women are considered a basic pillar of development.
In Oman Vision 2040, emphasis is laid on providing a suitable environment for women to strongly participate in various aspects of economic, social and political life in a manner that empowers them and enables them to actively enhance efforts of comprehensive, sustainable development.
Females constitute 49.7 percent of the Omani population by August 2020. In the 0-17 years’ age group, while females constitute 42.8 percent of the Omani population by 2019. The gender ratio of men to women is 101:100 till mid-2019.
Omani Women’s Associations (OWA) in the wilayats of the Sultanate are considered among institutions that support women’s empowerment. There are 65 OWAs that serve as parent organisations for Omani women’s training centres and rural women’s development centres.
The OWAs foster the role of women volunteers and social activists for women’s cause. They spread cultural, social, health and economic awareness. They train women to help them benefit from government programmes of livelihood projects.
Women’s associations direct grwoups to participate in the Sultan Qaboos Social Work Prize. The 15-category award encourages the culture of voluntary work, being an inseparable part of Omani civil society. It also seeks to activate various aspects of cooperation and social responsibility among civil society institutions.
Omani women are accorded an integrated set of health service which ranges between mothers healthcare and children’s healthcare, the aim of which is to cut down morbidity and mortality rates. Women’s life expectancy averaged 79.2 years and men 75.2 years by 2019. Mothers’ mortality rate dropped from 18.3/1000 newborns in 2014 to 10.3/1000 newborns in 2019.
The Sultanate perceives education as an important sector of sustainable development that promotes prosperity, health and gender equality. Many factors led to the reinforcement of women’s role as active partners in society. These include their access to education and work and their participation in different development fields. The government provides free education for females in the Sultanate, right from Class 1 to Class 12. As per the Child Law (22/2014), education is compulsory till Class 10. The percentage of females registration in classes 10-12 stood at 96.5 percent during the school year 2018/2019.
Statistics show a high rate of Omani girls’ joining higher education institutions within the Sultanate and abroad. Girls have equal rights as boys in contesting higher education seats. Girls’ registration in higher education stood at 73 percent locally and their percentage among stood close to 40 percent among students dispatched for scholarships.
In the field of social care and protection, females constituted 59.7 per cent of Social Security Scheme beneficiaries (44,204), while among children belonging to Social Security Scheme beneficiary families, girls constituted 64% of students who got admission to government scholarships and grants in 2018/2019. A proportion of 74.5% from Hajj (pilgrimage) grants for Social Security Scheme beneficiary families has been accorded to women (400 grants).
Omani women constituted 33.2 percent of the overall workforce of the government and private sector by the end of July 2020. Their percentage in private sector labour stood at 26.4percent and their number stood at 66,400 workers till the end of 2019.
Figures of the National Centre for Statistics and Information indicate that the percentage of Omani women working in the government sector stood at 41.9% and that 83,587 Omani women are registered in the public sector’s retirement fund by 2019. The centre also shows that women constituted 61 percent of Education Ministry employees and 60.8 percent of Health Ministry employees by the end of first half of 2019.
In the field of policy, national legislations guaranteed to women the right of participating in political practice. The Majlis A’Shura Elections Law, promulgated by Royal Decree No. 58/2013, was in line with the Basic Law of the State and grants both men and women equal right to candidacy and voting.
The 9th Term of Majlis A’Shura (2019-2023), held in October last year, saw a rise in the number of candidates compared to the previous term. Forty women contested the elections from among 637 candidates who competed to win 86 seats of the Majlis. Of the total number of voters (713,335), women were represented by 337,534 voters (47.3 percent).
In this term, two women won membership to the Majlis, while one more woman extended female representation in parliamentary bodies by being selected as a member of the State Council. Women’s representation in these bodies began with 4 in 1997 and they now constitute 10 percent.
Women also showed their mettle in diplomatic and consular domains within the Sultanate and abroad. Omani women are now members in international organisations, among them one is the chairperson of Coordination Committee for Women Parliamentarians at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (October 2014) and the former Permanent Representative of the Sultanate in the UN chaired the UN Media Committee from April 2013 to April 2015. Omani women represented the Sultanate as ambassadors in a number of countries, and they still do, and their proportion to men as ambassadors stands at 7 percent.
This is in addition to Omani women as members in international organisations like the Islamic Organisation for Science and Culture, as the Sultanate’s Permanent Representative to the UN and the World Trade Organisation. Oman was the first GCC state to have women as representatives at meetings of under-secretaries and the Consultative Authority.
Omani women carried the message of peace in different countries of the world and they sketch an honorable image in building bridges with countries of the world alongside Omani men. Omani women’s experience in Municipal Councils came in tandem with the government’s approach to women’s empowerment. Four of them represented womenfolk in Municipal Councils’ first term, while seven of them won seats during elections for the Councils’ second term (2016-2020). The proportion of voters in Municipal Councils’ elections rose from 28.6 percent in the first term to 46 percent in the second term of these councils.
In the field of scientific research, Omani women were represented fairly well by Prof. Salma bint Mohammed al Kindi, who was selected by the US State Department to enter the hall of famous women in the field of sciences for the Middle East region. In 2017, Al Kindi received the Life Achievement Award from Venus Institution of India in recognition for her contribution to Chemistry. Al Kindi was also elected in 2012 as the first Omani woman to Fellow to the International Science Academy.
She had also occupied the post of Dean of College of Science at Sultan Qaboos University, being the first woman to access the post in the college’s history. Another Omani woman, Dr. Mona bint Mohammed Al Habsi won Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2018. Her research focused on combating cancer by motivating the immune system.
Also, rural women and women on the coast play an efficient role in increasing productivity in agriculture, fisheries and livestock fields. This is besides their active role in the fields of poultry and dairy products and in rearing cattle, goats, sheep and gazelles and many other areas like skin tanning, honey bee keeping and various types of food industries.
In the field of sports, the departments concerned at the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, the Omani Olympic Committee and the Sultan Qaboos University encourage and prepare Omani women to participate in international events. Accordingly, Omani girls carried the Sultanate’s flag at international sports events. Meanwhile, the government granted Omani women 47 percent of the total number of land plots given to citizens in 2019. Also 45 percent of driving licenses issued in 2019 went to Omani women. — ONA