Global Resources

Gender, Citizenship and the Role of NGOs in Selected Gulf Countries

Author: B. Al-Najjar
Publisher: United Nations
Publication Date: Oct 2003
Women's NGOs in the Gulf have been struggling for gender equality before the law, as guaranteed by the constitution, for several decades. Despite numerous political gains, considerable challenges still exist. This is due to the complex interaction between social, political and cultural affiliations and influences that qualify the role women's NGOs play in public life in the Gulf. Nationality laws are one such example. Women are still unable to pass their Nationality on to their husbands or children in all the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries (GCC), with the exception of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This research paper uses Bahrain as a case study (the first Gulf country with active women's groups) with references to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. It draws on a variety of sources, including a survey of 30 active NGOs in Bahrain with mixed gender or only female members. The study reveals that women's NGOs in Bahrain face numerous challenges that hinder their effectiveness. Some limitations are external, such as the complicated laws governing their work, coupled with insufficient financial resources. Others are internal and include the relative inability of many of these groups to come up with innovative approaches to solving social problems or to rally members towards identified causes. The study makes several recommendations, particularly the need to appoint more women to the boards of mixed gender NGOs in Bahrain.