Two Women Appointed to Public Office In Kuwait

By Haitham Haddadin
Reuters
Monday, June 6, 2005

KUWAIT CITY, June 5 -- Kuwait named two women to public office for the first time Sunday, less than a month after the Gulf state granted women the right to vote.

"The six Municipal Council members have been appointed and they include two female personalities," the prime minister, Sabah Ahmed Sabah, told the state news agency KUNA, which said the move was the first in Kuwait's history.

The council also has 10 elected members. Women were excluded from municipal elections Thursday to fill those positions; the law allowing them to vote and run in elections was passed in May, too late for this round.

The council is responsible for city planning, public health and property issues, and monitors restaurants and construction.

Kuwaiti women will vote for the first time in the 2007 parliamentary elections, followed by the 2009 local elections.

The suffrage bill was seen as a breakthrough in Kuwait, a strategic U.S. ally that has pledged democratic reform. Kuwaiti women had hailed as historic the May 16 decision by the all-male parliament to allow women to vote and run for office.

KUNA identified the appointed women as Sheikha Fatima Sabah, a member of the ruling family and an architect, and Fawziya Bahar, an engineer.

Women's activists applauded the appointments.

"I am very happy. . . . It is a sign of progress in our society," said Lulwa Mulla, vice chairwoman of Kuwait's Women's Social and Cultural Society.

Kuwaiti women have attained high positions in education, oil and the diplomatic corps, but until last month they had been barred from participating in politics.

Masoumah Mubarak, a professor at Kuwait University, said the appointments were positive for the image of Kuwait, the first Gulf state with an elected parliament.

"This is the right thing to do and this is what ought to have been done long ago. This is a new step in the direction of reform," she said.


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