Gender equality is a global priority across all industries. While there is still much work to do, many companies, institutions, and countries are sincerely undertaking efforts to close the gender gap. Bahrain is such a place, where women’s education is championed. Prisha Dandwani investigates the degree to which women have increased access, and why.
In a recent World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report 2022, Bahrain ranked 54 out of 146 countries in educational attainment, scoring higher than places such as Malaysia, Italy, Singapore and Australia.
Universities have an important responsibility to attain gender equality in higher education, not just within campus life, but also within their general communities. Women account for about a half of the world’s population, and without their success in both education and the workplace, economic prosperity is just not possible. Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the UN once aptly said, “To educate girls is to reduce poverty”.
Gender gap issues are evident around the world, however, Bahrain is clearly a notable country in the Arab region to look at more closely when understanding what opportunities exist for women. According to an official study reported by the Media Line in 2021, 63 percent of postgraduate degrees in Bahrain are held by women. Multiple factors are thought to contribute to this phenomenon that sets the country apart.
Increased access to education and work for women is not a new development in Bahrain. The “Bahr” in its name is Arabic for “the sea” and, geographically, its location on the Persian Gulf has shaped its culture. Historically, while men spent long periods of time at sea fishing or pearl diving, women took more responsibility in society, managing general life and the home.
Professor Yusra Mouzughi, President of the Royal University for Women (RUW) in West Riffa, Bahrain, explains that the country has always led the way for women’s rights and education. “Bahraini people are tolerant by nature, and liberal”, she says, illustrating that since the 1950’s and 1960’s, women regularly travelled for further education or opportunities. This created a strong foundation for women today to feel comfortable exploring their interests and ambitions.
Mona Almoayyed, Managing Director of one of the oldest conglomerates in Bahrain, Y.K. Almoayyed & Sons, was voted ninth most powerful businesswoman in the Middle East by Forbes in 2020 and similarly speaks about her experience growing up as a young woman in Bahrain.
“I was fortunate – my father really supported us, treated us equally as our brothers, and gave me the best education, sending me to England in the 1970’s to study.” She adds that Bahraini families are generally open-minded. While, of course, there are some families that may not have the financial capacity to send all their children to university, providing an education to women in Bahrain is a tradition in itself.