Gulf countries honour women's successes in rapidly evolving region

First GCC event to commemorate International Women's Day draws dozens of female leaders and officials from across region

The Gulf Co-operation Council's secretariat held an event in Riyadh on International Women's Day to celebrate the achievements of women from the GCC.
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Gulf countries on Friday celebrated women's achievements in the fast-evolving region, highlighting their crucial role in society and the workforce.

The event in Riyadh was the first to be organised by the Gulf Co-operation Council's secretariat, to commemorate International Women's Day.

Dozens of female leaders and officials from across the region took part.

"The role of Gulf women has never been marginal," GCC Secretary General Jasem Mohamed Al Budaiwi said.

"But rather it was and still is a key element in establishing joint action and pushing forward the rise of our societies," he added.

The World Bank said last November that the GCC countries have witnessed "a remarkable increase" in female labour force participation as the region seeks to empower its non-oil sectors rapidly.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the GCC has increased its average female labour force participation by more than 10 per cent over the past two decades.

However, women’s role in economic activities still falls short when compared to countries with a similar gross domestic product per capita.

Mr Al Budaiwi said women now hold 43 per cent of public sector positions and account for 49 per cent of senior roles in that sector. He added that in some Gulf countries, women make up 46 per cent of ambassadors.

In Saudi Arabia, the private sector workforce has grown steadily, reaching 2.6 million in early 2023, with women’s participation in the labour market more than doubling in six years, from 17.4 per cent in early 2017 to 36 per cent in the first quarter of 2023, as per a recent World Bank report.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was keen to empower women within a development program and combat discrimination until they became essential for growth in various fields", Waleed El Khereiji, Saudi Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in his speech on Friday.

Qatar's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sultan Al Muraikhi told the gathering that women in the Gulf country have been "a key component in decision-making, especially at the diplomatic level".

The gathering celebrated the achievements of several women, including Kuwaiti Ghada Al Ghanem of the Women's Cultural and Social Society, Omani writer Jokha Alharthi who won the Man Booker International Prize in 2019 and the head of Saudi Human Rights Commission Hala Al Tuwaijri.

Others whose work was celebrated included Lulwa Al Awadhi, Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Women in Bahrain, and Emirati photographer Noura Al Neyadi.

Updated: March 09, 2024, 4:56 PM