The following is a post written by Alison Chatfield, an intern in the Middle East and North Africa Program at Vital Voices. She is a senior at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University and is majoring in International Development Studies.
“If a woman feels secure with her rights and her family, she will have the chance to venture out for other things,” MENA Business Women’s Network President Afnan Al Zayani said in a January 18 interview with the Gulf Daily News.
Women in Bahrain are currently experiencing a conflict of interest in making the tough compromises necessary to juggle a professional and a personal life. Ms. Al Zayani asserted in her statements that traditional roles and responsibilities are still preventing many women from entering or re-entering the workplace. She said that these challenges can be overcome if Bahrain were to provide more reasonably priced services that support women who work and also have responsibilities to their families. These services include a reliable public transport system, care centers for infants, affordable home cooked food, and care for the elderly.
Bahrain considers its people as its greatest resource, making it equally important for women to be given the same employment opportunities as men. Without supportive services to facilitate the interconnectedness of many Bahraini women’s professional and personal lives, many feel they cannot cope under the pressure and are therefore much more likely to give up work or not return to work after having children. Agency is a key ingredient to professional success, and an increase in accessible and affordable services in Bahrain would give women the opportunity of a level playing field.
Al Zayani’s statements were issued at the second annual Regional Women and Leadership Conference, the same in which Labor Minister Dr. Majeed Al Alawi stated that Bahrain had allocated a budget of BD 24 million, equivalent to just over 63 million US dollars, to be used to help 4,500 university graduates find jobs in the private sector in the next 24 months. Seventy-five percent of those graduates are women. He added that “Empowering women is not propaganda to show we are a liberal society, it’s about employing 50 percent of all assets. We don’t want to lose them, we want to make sure female talents have equal opportunities as men.”
Ms. Afnan Al Zayani was recognized for her work both in business and public life in Bahrain at the Vital Voices 2010 Global Leadership Awards.