Women’s Empowerment in Qatar: Progress and Challenges

Women’s Empowerment in Qatar: Progress and Challenges By Josephine Justin - February 15, 2024
Women’s Empowerment in Qatar

Women’s Empowerment in Qatar

Qatar, a nation rooted in Islamic traditions, has made significant strides in empowering women across various aspects of life. Qatar was the first Gulf country to allow women the right to vote alongside men, in 1999.

Over the decade, the Qatari government, committed to social justice and gender equality, has implemented policies and initiatives to enhance women's status in education, employment, and overall well-being. But how much of their rights do women truly exercise? What really is Women’s Empowerment in Qatar?

This article explores the multifaceted approach taken by Qatar, its government and its people to empower its women.


Women's Education

The Qatari government recognizes the pivotal role education plays in empowering women and has actively supported women's educational initiatives. The establishment of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development, led by HH Sheikha Moza, stands as a testament to Qatar's commitment. Education City, under QF, has been instrumental in raising the percentage of women university graduates in Qatar to an impressive 67.5%, surpassing the global average.

Furthermore, Qatar Foundation has sponsored initiatives like the Women in Conflict Zones (WCIZ) to empower women globally. The country has also addressed the issue of female illiteracy, with a reported enrollment rate of more than 70% in literacy programs. These efforts underscore Qatar's commitment to ensuring educational opportunities for all women.


Women in the Labor Market and Business

As per the 2018 World Bank data, Qatar exhibits a relatively higher proportion of women-owned businesses (12.6%) compared to the United Arab Emirates and is just behind Saudi Arabia. All over the country, young women are actively pursuing entrepreneurship and investing in their ideas at an unprecedented rate. Moreover, numerous free workshops, training sessions, incubators, and accelerators are available to support and foster women's entrepreneurship in the market.

Qatar's National Vision 2030 places a strong emphasis on social development, including women's participation in the labor market. The government has enacted laws and facilitations to create a conducive environment for women in the workforce. With a participation rate of 37% for women aged 25-29 and close to 49% for those aged 30-34, Qatari women have made significant strides in various sectors, including administration, science, and the judiciary.

Facilitations such as high-quality childcare services, flexible working hours, and maternity leave showcase Qatar's commitment to ensuring a balance between work and family life for women. The formation of a national committee dedicated to monitoring women's rights reflects the government's ongoing efforts in this regard.


Women's Career - Psychosocial Balance

Recognizing the importance of maintaining psychosocial balance, Qatar has implemented measures to support women in balancing their professional and personal lives. The introduction of part-time work in government entities, prioritizing women, aligns with the State's belief in career-psychosocial balance. Additionally, the provision of mental health support services, including a national mental health helpline, reflects Qatar's commitment to the overall well-being of its women.

The establishment of the Doha International Family Institute (DIFI) further underscores Qatar's dedication to addressing family-related issues and promoting work-life balance. These initiatives collectively contribute to creating an environment where women can thrive both professionally and personally.


Women's Health

The Qatari health system operates at the highest international standards, with a specific focus on women's health. Comprehensive care during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum reflects the government's commitment to ensuring the well-being of mothers and their babies. Specialized psychological and mental health care for women provided by institutions like Sidra Medicine highlights Qatar's holistic approach to women's health.


Feminism in Qatar

Public discussions about female empowerment and women's issues have gained traction across various domains in the country, including the arts and business. Despite the enduring presence of patriarchal cultural influences, Qatari society actively engages in conversations about progress and the evolving role of women.

While Western notions of feminism may not directly align with the cultural context of Qatar, the country continues to debate what form their own brand of feminism might take, contributing to the ongoing discourse on gender equality in the region.


Financial and Property Rights

In Qatar, women have the legal right to own property and land, enter into business contracts, and control their income and assets, regardless of their marital status. However, in practice, both single and married women must navigate cultural norms and limitations that shape what is considered appropriate behavior and may impact their ability to fully exercise these rights.


Women’s Safety

Qatar is known to be one of the safest countries to exist, especially for women. Over the last 10 years, the country has experienced a surge in popularity over the past decade. Its numerous sporting events have garnered significant attention, propelling this country into a multicultural hub. While Qatar boasts a rich Arabic heritage, it seamlessly blends modern luxury into its fabric.

For solo women tourists too, the country is a perfect destination. But this does not mean that you can run wild. Although it is marked as a safe tourist location, a woman traveler should still take certain precautions in terms of clothing and alcohol intake.

Qatar is, after all, an Islamic country where Sharia Law is recognized and practiced. This means that there are certain basic rules and regulations that all citizens and visitors, regardless of their gender, are expected to abide by and respect.


What the Future Holds

The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap 2021 report places Qatar at 142 out of 156 countries, indicating gender gaps in various aspects. Addressing these challenges, particularly in areas like decision-making autonomy, will be crucial for further advancing women's empowerment in Qatar.

Qatar's commitment to women's empowerment is evident through its comprehensive approach, addressing education, employment, psychosocial balance, and health. The achievements made so far underscore the success of these initiatives, but the acknowledgment of existing challenges is crucial for sustained progress. As Qatar continues on its path towards 2030, the empowerment of women remains a cornerstone in building a socially just and economically prosperous society.

By Josephine Justin - February 15, 2024

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