You're next in line, Saudi Arabia: votes for women
When I was in second grade, my class gave an assembly presentation in which each of us read a little speech about some figure in US history, pretending to be that character. I was Susan B. Anthony.
Although I no longer remember the speech I made, I never forgot that she had helped women earn the right to vote. It seems hard to believe, but at the time I made my little debut, women had only been voting for about thirty-five years.
How long had women's struggle to gain the vote taken in this country? Approximately seventy difficult and dogged years. In fact, most of the early leaders of the movement, including Anthony herself, died before seeing the Promised Land of the 19th Amendment.
I don't know how long women in Kuwait have been petitioning to vote; my guess is that it's been less than seventy years. My guess is also that certain recent Middle Eastern events, in which the policies of one George W. Bush have played no small role, were part of the reason the Kuwaitis decided one month ago that the time had come to let women in that country vote.
Kuwait has now announced this further news, a mere month later:
The Kuwaiti government has appointed its first female Cabinet minister, a month after lawmakers in this oil-rich nation granted women the right to vote and run for office, state-owned television reported Sunday.
Political science teacher Massouma al-Mubarak, a women's rights activist and columnist, was given the planning and administrative development portfolios, Prime Minister Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah was quoted as saying. The two portfolios previously were held by Sheik Ahmed Abdullah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, who also is the communications minister.
"I'm happy," al-Mubarak, 54, told The Associated Press. "This honor is not bestowed on my person but on every woman who fought to prove that Kuwaiti women are capable."
The achievement of the vote for women in Kuwait, and the appointment of this first woman to a Cabinet-level position, aren't simply questions of women's rights long overdue, although they most certainly are that. They represent an extension of the scope of democracy in an area of the world that could sorely use some improvement in the position of women, developments that might one day prove to have a generalized ripple effect on the cultural ethos there (and yes, though it's not PC of me, I think it could stand some improvement).
Further facts of possible interest: Ms. al-Mubarak seems to have replaced two men, if I understand the article correctly. And Saudis, please take note:
Women can now vote in all Middle Eastern nations where elections are held except Saudi Arabia.