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Kuwait made history this month. Four women were elected to parliament in Kuwait -- a first for both the country and the entire Gulf region. All 4 are university professors.
Massouma al-Mubarak, a Shiite who was also the first woman to be appointed to the Kuwaiti cabinet in 2005, led the list of winners in her constituency. The 3 other women include Rola Dashti, a prominent women’s rights activist, professor of education Salwa al-Jassar, and Aseel al-Awadhi, a philosophy professor at Kuwait University.
Kuwaiti women, who make up approximately 54 percent of the some 380,000 eligible voters, were running in the elections for only the third time after gaining the vote in 2005. No women won seats in the previous 2 elections. "The breakthrough in [these] elections," said Massouma al-Mubarak, "are the culmination of 4 decades of Kuwaiti women's struggle for their rights and political participation."
Since introducing a constitution and a parliamentary democracy in 1962 -- the first among Arab Gulf countries -- Kuwait's National Assembly has been dissolved 6 times. Nevertheless, Kuwait's democracy has demonstrated its resilience over time. Following the Iraqi invasion of the country in 1990, it didn't take long to restore the parliament. A new government is expected to take office in early June.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hailed the election of 4 women to Kuwait's parliament as "a major step forward for Kuwait," the region, and the world. The American embassy applauded "the conduct of these elections and the historic and democratic admission of Kuwaiti women to the nation’s parliament."
The parliament has faced gridlock and political turmoil recently. The United States hopes that these "new parliamentarians, men and women, will work together with their government in a spirit of harmony to fully develop Kuwait’s economic and social potential."