1st Kuwaiti woman minister breaks psychological barrier

KUWAIT CITY — In early March last year, women rights activist Maasuma Al Mubarak was leading a rally outside parliament to press MPs to pass a law enfranchising Kuwaiti women.

Three months later, the US-educated liberal academic became Kuwait’s first woman minister, scoring the second coup in as many months for Kuwaiti women who won the right to vote and stand for public office in May after four decades of struggle.

“It was a long-term demand for Kuwaiti women to reach to the decision-making circles. I believe reaching this post — in a symbolic and not personal way — means a lot to women’s issues, especially equality with men,” Mubarak told AFP.

“This appointment is a dream come true and a noble goal,” for Kuwaiti women, she said. “It has broken a psychological barrier and was a response to those who doubted women’s capabilities.”

Minutes after her appointment on June 12, Mubarak, married with one son and three daughters, described the step as a great honour for Kuwaiti women and an appreciation of their struggle.

She has retained her post as minister of planning and administrative development in the new Kuwaiti Cabinet formed in February following the death of emir Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Al Sabah.

A graduate of political science from Kuwait University in 1971, Mubarak, in her late 50s, also became the first woman member of parliament as Cabinet ministers automatically become members of parliament.

“Through this post, we can serve women issues… we can change laws that are discriminatory against women and achieve the principle of [gender] equality before the law,” she said.

“Achieving political rights is not the ultimate goal for Kuwaiti women… We want to achieve other [social and legal] rights and be equal with men,” Mubarak said.

Mubarak is a prominent academic specialising in international relations, Third World political development, human rights and women’s issues.

She obtained a masters degree in political science from Northern Texas University, Texas, in 1976 and another masters degree in international relations from the University of Denver, Colorado, in 1980.

Two years later, Mubarak, who wears the Muslim hijab, or head cover, received her doctorate in international relations from the University of Denver.

The following year, she was appointed as a political science professor at Kuwait University and remained in the post until her appointment as minister.

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