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Friday, October 22, 2021

‘Where are the women?’ Female candidates, voters react to Shura Council election results


Qatar’s first elected Shura Council failed to include women members.  

At least 26 women were on the list of candidates for Qatar’s first Shura Council elections, however “disappointing” results failed to name a single female candidate as a winner.

“We were all surprised by the results yesterday, it was definitely a disappointment,” said Aisha Jassim Al Kuwari, a Qatari female who ran for the Shura elections from district 22.

“I was expecting at least two women out of 30 districts to be elected in the new Shura Council. I was shocked that no women candidates were elected but this is the first trial through which the people will explore its effectiveness and hopefully after four years there will be more awareness and women will have more chances of winning,” she added. 

Late on Saturday, the winners from each district were revealed. However, even with a surprisingly high voter turnout, the final results showed that none of the 26 women who were among the 233 candidates across the 30 districts were elected into the country’s advisory council.

Now, Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani will select the remaining 15 members, though it is yet to be seen if women will be among those appointed a seat in the country’s highest legislative body.  

Read also: World reacts to Qatar’s first Shura Council election

Although Al Kuwari, like many other candidates who lost, accepted Saturday’s results “with an open heart,” Qatari citizens online took the moment to question women’s rights and the role of women in society. 

For 27-year-old Rabee Al Kuwari, this was narrowed down to the simple fact that women were not able to utilise the most effective campaigning method in Qatar – meeting at Majales.

This is a gathering that is attended by Qataris, mostly men, in which they meet to discuss several issues to stay connected with tribes.

Speaking to Doha News, Rabee said these gatherings proved to be extremely important when it comes to elections, as the person who manages to speak to the most people wins, as was the case with Mubarak Mohammed Matar Al Matar Al Kuwari who won in district 22.

“The person who makes more promises wins. People chose Mubarak because of his previous role in the municipality where he helped people with several issues.”

These sentiments were shared by Al Anood Al Thani on Instagram who said: it “says a lot when the more educated gender demographic does not get a single seat in the legislative Council. Not one.”

To mitigate this from repeating, Dr. Amal Al Malki, Founding Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) suggested introducing a gender quota to secure seats for women in politics.

“Gender quotas is the only way women will make their way to the Shura Council and it should have been added to the election law,” she said in a post on Instagram following the results. 

However, candidate Aisha Al Kuwari said the issue is not with society’s patriarchal mentality or lack of knowledge regarding the election process, but rather “a matter of luck.”

Asked about the reason behind the all-male elected council, she said: “I don’t see it as a lack of trust in women because we [women] occupy positions of leadership in the country not of less importance than a member of the Shura Council.”

“I saw the votes yesterday, women got a noticeable percentage of votes but men had higher votes and chances of winning. Maybe they believe that this position is more suitable for men.

While patriarchy does exist in Qatar’s society, it is not dominant, she said.

“During campaigning we received great support from our people, from both men and women.”

Al Kuwari, who founded Qatar’s first publishing house and is an advisor to the Council of Ministers, urged people to always support the most qualified to represent them despite gender or personal relation.

She said that choosing individuals with qualifications increases the standards of services.

“There are issues that will be brought up and discussed in the Shura Council, thus we need a person who is knowledgable with these issues.”

This was echoed by Mubaraka Al Marri who registered as a Shura candidate but was dropped from the final list due to reasons she refrained from disclosing. 

“The society is innocent of all theses accusations that suggest people excluded women or refused their participation in the Shura elections,” she said, refuting allegations that present Qatar as a patriarchal or tribal society that undermines women.

“Qataris, in all their tribes and families, appreciate women,” she said, noting that “women take their opportunities fairly.”

When asked about the reason behind women not getting any seats in the new Shura Council, Mubaraka also said voters are not to blame, though refrained from pointing fingers our revealing further details.

“As a proof, Sheikha Al Jufairi was elected to the Central Municipal Council multiple times by the people and those who elected her would have voted for her in the Shura but still she didn’t make it to the council,” she noted.

“I wish that the amir fills this gap through appointing women to enable them to engage in politics.”

Despite the results, social media users offered words of encouragement.

“You’ve lost the battle of victory, but you won the war of participation!” one Twitter user said, addressing the lack of female names on the final list.

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