Women in Bahrain
The Kingdom takes great responsibility in providing equal rights to women and ensuring they are represented in various fields.
Bahraini women are key players in the Kingdom of Bahrain’s development process whose contributions span the full spectrum of public life, including politics, social development, business, and more. However, despite these achievements, there is still room to create a more inclusive environment that fosters greater balance between genders.The Supreme Council for Women (SCW) is committed to addressing women’s needs in order to unlock their full potential and contribute to the society on a broader spectrum. As part of a national initiative aimed at promoting gender equality and inclusion of women, the government and the SCW have undertaken a range of initiatives to empower Bahraini women, turning them into role models within the Arab World.
Supreme Council for Women (SCW)
The Supreme Council for Women was established on 22 August 2001 through Amiri Decree No. 44 which was amended by the Amiri Decrees No. 55 in 2001 and No. 2 in 2002 , and Royal Decree No. 36 in 2004. It is considered a main reference point for all official organizations related to women’s affairs and has jurisdiction to express its opinion and address all matters impacting the position of women in society.The Council is chaired by Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa and comprises at least 16 members at any given time who are female public figures considered to be leaders in women's affairs and related activities. The SCW empowers Bahraini women and guarantees their inclusion in development programs, while also ensuring they maintain cohesive family bonds and lives. Underpinned by equal opportunity principles, it helps foster competitiveness among Bahraini women and secures their lifelong learning. The Council promotes legislation and policies aimed at providing diverse opportunities for Bahraini women to enhance the quality of their lives. As an expert-led organization specialized in supporting women’s affairs in line with global standards, it partners with relevant institutions to elevate the status of women.
Bahraini Women’s Day
Launched by HRH Princess Sabeeka in 2008, the first Bahraini Women’s Day was held under the theme, “She read… She learned… She contributed”, which, in turn, was coined to celebrate 80 years since the start of formal education for women in the Kingdom. Marked on 1 December every year, the occasion celebrates Bahraini women and their contributions to shaping the identity of a modern, forward-thinking society that seeks to preserve the principles of equality in the national development process.The theme aptly expresses the crucial role women play in building the Bahrain of today and speaks to the tangible benefits of their contributions as partners in national development. It also tells the story of how Bahraini women’s roles have evolved, beginning with the first generation of female pioneers who read and learned, and how the women of today continue to help build their society with the same enthusiasm and determination.
Bahraini Women’s Day , an important national event that celebrates the achievements of Bahraini women, has had several themes over the years:
- 2008 Women in Education
- 2009 Women in Health Security
- 2010 Women in Volunteer Work
- 2011 Women in Economic Development
- 2012 Women in Sports
- 2013 Women in Media
- 2014 Women in Military
- 2015 Women in Banking and Finance
- 2016 Women in Legal and Justice Fields
- 2017 Women in Engineering
- 2018 Women in Legislative and Municipal Work
- 2019 Women in Higher Education and Future Sciences
- 2020 Women in the Diplomatic Field
Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa Award
In line with the objectives of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain to ensure that Bahraini women play prominent roles in society, Royal Decree No. (5) for 2004 was issued to create Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa Award for Bahraini Women Empowerment . The award is given every two years to ministries and public and private entities that excel in supporting and empowering working Bahraini women.
The award highlights the Kingdom’s progress, showcasing how its focus evolved from being about women’s empowerment to the partnership balance between Bahraini women and men. It also enhances the mainstreaming of women’s needs and helps achieve greater gender balance. This approach has had a positive effect, as reflected in the rising levels of women’s participation in national development and prosperity.The award also encourages United Nations (UN) member states to dedicate more effort to women’s empowerment, which provides an opportunity for the Kingdom to be recognized internationally and for its institutions and individuals to be celebrated for their achievements in the field.
The Awards’ main objectives are:
- Highlighting the efforts of ministries, public and private institutions, civil societies and individuals in supporting the advancement of Bahraini women and to ensure that a balance is struck between their working lives and family obligations.
- Encouraging the increase of Bahraini women’s presence and contributions to their respective organizations
- Encouraging institutional representation and external participation, and to prepare surveys, studies and research in support of the advancement of Bahraini women and gender balance.
- Contribute to the follow-up of national efforts towards the advancement of Bahraini women and the integration of their needs in development.
- Build the capabilities and experiences of Bahraini women and to benefit from these skills and experiences in community development.
- Highlighting and recognizing individual efforts, initiatives, projects and accomplishments aimed at integrating the needs of women and empowering them in a way that contributes to bringing positive change to the society and achieving sustainable community development.
Visit the website for more information about the Award.
History of Bahraini Women in Legislative Fields and Municipal Work
The participation of women in public life has increased over the years. They have been participating alongside men in municipal elections since the early 1930s, as indicated by historical documents that show the voting eligibility of any woman who owns property registered in her name. They also participated in the first elections for the Central Municipal Authority in 1951. Women were active participants at the time, having left a clear effect in many areas.In the early seventies, eight women from the Children and Mothers Welfare Society, and Al Nahda Society participated in a referendum to prove the Arab identity of Bahrain, with the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in attendance. With His Majesty the King’s ascension to the throne in 1999, four women were appointed as legislators to the first Shura Council in 2000. Bahraini women also had a prominent and active presence in the committee that prepared the National Action Charter, which consisted of 46 members, including six women. On 24 February 2001, His Majesty the King issued Decree No. (6) for the year 2001 establishing the Committee to Draft the National Action Charter , which included 16 members, including two women. The year 2001 marked a milestone for Bahraini women, as the legislative amendments introduced by the National Action Charter ensured that they received their full political rights. These rights, protected by the 2002 Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain, include the right of women to run in Parliamentary and Municipal elections. Bahrain’s Parliament elected Fawzia Zainal as speaker for the year 2018, the first woman to occupy this position. The 40 Members of Parliament active during that year included five women.
The National Plan for the Advancement of Bahraini Women
The National Plan for the Advancement of Bahraini Women (2013-2022) includes five pillars that seek to ensure women’s family stability and cohesion, and enable them to contribute to development, forming an equal partnership in building a sustainable competitive community.Women receive attention from the government of Bahrain in all fields, including housing, where women have the right to apply for housing services as the heads of households. This is in addition to taking significant steps to develop an action plan to protect women from violence and discrimination, and to encourage their economic empowerment. The Kingdom of Bahrain has issued legislation in support of women's rights, including Family Law No. (19) of 2017 , which regulates family provisions (inheritance) for all without discrimination. In 2018, family courts specialized in resolving family disputes were established to achieve the 5th UN Sustainable Development Goal (gender equality).
Women Equality & Empowerment
Securing women rights and providing them with the opportunities to reach their full potential is critical, not only for attaining gender equality, but also for meeting a wide range of international development goals.
Women in Bahrain play a substantial role within the community and have defiantly played a major role in the country’s advancement and development. Moreover, empowered women contribute to the health and productivity of their families, communities, and countries, creating a ripple effect that benefits everyone. Hence, with an aim to incorporate all members of society and implement the concept of “Leaving No One behind”, and supporting the 5th Goal within the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Gender Equality; the Kingdom has ensured providing equal opportunities to both genders and all generations.
Women in Bahrain have a strong presence in many fields within the community, from health, to education, sports, judicial field, ICT, and more; paving the way for women achieve their sense of physical and financial dependence at their own time and comfort.
Moreover, based on its firm belief in the importance of women as an active and key player in shaping Bahrain’s economic future, Tamkeen launched a series of initiatives in cooperation with the Supreme Council for Women to support women in the business world. These initiatives encouraged women not only to become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses, but also enabled them to advance in their careers, thereby enhancing Bahraini women’s chances of success and their contribution to their country’s economic development. Tamkeen has also developed special indicators and measure to ensure their inclusion in their strategy and development programs, for more information, please visit their website.
Aditionally, the Royal Humanitatian Foundation provides comprehensive care for orphans and widows throigh various aspects. The Customer Services Department satisfies the financial, educational, health and psychological needs of widows and orphans, in addition to the humanitarian assistance provided to eligible citizens in general. For more informatin, please visit the following link.
On another note, the Bahrain Development Bank also has special programs and financial services to empower women entrepreneurs , through the Women Business Finance Scheme "Riyadat". For more information, please visit their website
The SCW has developed an app dedicated to display the Gender Balance Indicators across different sectors within Bahrain, including health, education, family, and economic and political participation. The app is available for download for iOS devices.
Equal Opportunities in the Workplace
Bahrain began addressing the low level of Bahraini women’s participation in the Kingdom’s development in 1975. Several international conferences followed focusing on the issue, with several initiatives launched to make women’s participation more common and accepted by society. There was growing interest in the adoption of new ideas about the roles of both men and women, moving beyond merely looking at women playing a part in development into considering them an essential force, capable of change, progress, and improvement.
Equal Opportunities Committees in the Public Sector
Government entities formed 45 Equal Opportunity Committees in the government sector following the issuance of Civil Service Bureau Decision No. (4) of 2014 . These committees incorporate women’s needs as a natural part of equal opportunities in all areas of labour, and work towards realizing equal opportunity principles among all employees, beneficiaries, and services in coordination with the SCW. The committees express their opinions on issues related to the mainstreaming of women’s needs and instituting them as a natural part of the principle of equal opportunity.Equal Opportunity Committees set controls, standards, and aimed at mainstreaming women’s needs. They follow up on their implementation and provide consultation, in coordination with the SCW and the Civil Service Bureau (CSB), if required, and in accordance with CSB specializations as outlined in its rules and regulations for the following areas:
- Promoting equal opportunities between employees in terms of recruitment, training, scholarship, and career advancement, while ensuring the mainstreaming of working women’s needs.
- Mainstreaming of women's needs and creating equal opportunities when it comes to the policies, plans and budgets of government agencies.
- Building the capacities of employees while mainstreaming women’s needs and instituting them as a natural part of the principle of equal opportunity.
- Improving the status of women and their working environments within government organizations and overcoming the obstacles they face.
- Supporting the efforts of the SCW in promoting equal opportunity principles and the integration of women's needs into government entities’ programs according to the National Plan for the Advancement of Bahraini Women.
- Achieving equal opportunities for all beneficiaries of services provided by government entities.
Equal Opportunity Committees in the Private Sector
The private sector employs a high number of Bahraini women and plays an important role in the activation of the National Model for the mainstreaming of women’s needs. Several businesses have undertaken initiatives to mainstream women’s needs, as evident by their high levels of participation in the Award of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa for the Advancement of Bahraini Women, which includes a category for the private sector.Many private companies have incorporated equal opportunity principles within their policies, offering support services to their female employees. The SWC’s successful efforts to mainstream women’s needs are evident by initiatives announced by certain private companies, and the positive effect they have had on their performance. The SCW also works to reduce unemployment among Bahraini women by encouraging self-employment and initiatives that promote their participation in the private sector. The SCW is working on a plan aimed at enhancing equal opportunities even further, thereby strengthening the Kingdom’s global rankings in this area. It will also enable the private sector to support women’s causes through civil society institutions, stemming from social responsibility and taking the interests of business owners into consideration. Mainstreaming women’s needs in the private sector helps to raise awareness and win the confidence of decision-makers and employees in the sector. It promotes the principles of equal opportunity and has resulted in many success stories. It also helps to identify the issues and concerns of working women and create solutions. For more information on equal opportunities for women in the Kingdom’s legislative fields and civil society.
Women in Education
According to SCW statistics, women form a significant portion of the education sector.
- Between 2011 and 2020, the number of female teachers in elementary education institutions averaged 75%.
- Statistics also showed a rise in the percentage of females completing educational levels, in 2020 females represented:
- 52% of students in elementary schools
- 50% in intermediate schools
- 60% in secondary schools.
- 64% graduates of higher education institutions
Women in Economic Development
Bahraini women formed an average of 32% of the total workforce from 2010- 2019. A total of 18% of public sector employees during these years were Bahraini women, compared to 17% of Bahraini men.In the same years, Bahraini women made up 54% of the total in governmental entities and 35% in the private sector. Bahraini women made notable contributions to business, with an average of 43% of all active individuals’ Commercial Registers (CRs) between 2010 and 2018 being owned by Bahraini women. A testament to their ambition and far-reaching capabilities, Bahraini women received regional recognition when the Forbes Middle East 2021 ‘The Middle East’s 100 Power Businesswomen ’ included Three Bahraini women among their ranks:
- Mona Almoayyed
- Najla Al Shirawi
- Narjes Jamal
Women in Sports
Bahraini women enjoy equal access to professional sports opportunities as their male counterparts, with women’s sports receiving growing attention in the Kingdom. The SCW supports the participation of women in all types of sports and encourages them to show up in force at all local, regional and international games and competitions, as a patriotic act that enhances the Kingdom’s profile. Practicing sports regularly can also have a positive impact on the quality of women’s lives and their physical and mental wellbeing.The SCW, in cooperation with the University of Bahrain (UoB), conducted a study on women’s sports in the Kingdom , which highlighted the challenges they face and future aspirations.
Women Empowerment & Influence in Decision Making
Women in Bahrain play a progressive role in many key and high end positions.
In 2020, women in the Legislative Authority made up 19% of the participations:
- 15% of them were elected within the parliament
- 23% were appointed within the Shura Council
- 23% in the Municipal council.
Moreover, female candidates who are running for parliamentary elections make up 14% of the candidates, and female candidates running for the municipal elections make up 6% of the candidates.
As for the judicial field, the percentage of female judges is marked at 12% while males comprise 98% within the field.
Women also occupy a number of positions within the Executive Authority and leadership positions:
- Female ministers or the equivalent make up 4%
- Female undersecretaries and deputy ministers mark at 8%
- Female assistant undersecretaries or assistant deputy ministers mark 35% of these positions.
Women in Technology & Digital Literacy
With the world increasingly moving towards digitalization, there is greater demand than ever before for IT expertise. Women in the Kingdom of Bahrain now occupy important positions in this field, for example, accounting for 42% of the employees of the Information & eGovernment Authority (iGA) in 2020, including 31% of its administrative positions. Stemming from its commitment to enforcing the principles of gender equality at work, the iGA formed an Equal Opportunities Committee, which includes members of both genders from various departments.
Bahraini Women Hackathon
In cooperation with Polytechnic Bahrain and BRINC-Batelco, the SCW launched the Bahraini Women Hackathon , the first contest of its kind. Adopting the slogan ‘Challenge and Innovation’, the hackathon was among a range of activities celebrating Bahraini Women’s Day, which, in 2019, was dedicated to women in higher education and future sciences.The contest aims to uncover and enhance the talents of Bahraini women, empower them to become professionals in technical fields, motivate them to join the field of software development and program design, and develop their abilities to create smart solutions in accordance with the latest global trends. This supports the priorities of the National Model for the Advancement of Bahraini Women, such as investment and entrepreneurial opportunities, life-long learning, family services, quality of life, career progression and supporting work services, knowledge management, and Sustainable Development Goals.
Further information about Bahraini Women Hackathon can be viewed on their website.
Initiatives Towards Digital Literacy
Many private sectors within the kingdom of Bahrain have devoted programs to help empower women in collaboration with the government sector. These initiatives support in enhancing the digital skills training aimed at Bahraini women to use eGovernment services through the National Portal and eGovernment mobile applications to empower them to be benefit from the government eParticipation tools to make their voices heard.
The Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait (BBK), in partnership with The Bahrain Institute for Banking and Finance (BIBF), launched a programme dedicated to building the digital capabilities of Bahraini women in today’s digital world and empowering them with the knowledge needed to use different apps and platforms such as Bahrain advanced eGovernment services, e-banking, online schooling, e-payments.
The programme aims to train 100 stay-at-home Bahraini women above 20 years old, who have been facing some challenges when dealing with the digital technology in their daily life, as well as to enable and empower them to support their children’s education from home, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic and the fast digital transformation we are currently witnessing.
On another note, National Bank of Bahrain (NBB) spearheaded an exclusive program to support the accession of current and developing female executives into leadership roles titled the ‘Director Development Programme for Women.’ This initiative was conceived by NBB and is being executed in partnership with Tamkeen, the GCC Board Directors Institute (BDI) and EMIC training, in a combined effort to further promote female empowerment in the Kingdom of Bahrain and help ‘break glass ceilings’.
eParticipation for Women
The Kingdom took leaping steps in insuring that women’s voices are heard through eParticipation platforms. the Government has enabled multiple channels to improve the participatory governance services for women and other vulnerable groups. The channels include online mobile access and call centers while ensuring anonymity and privacy as well as providing maximum coverage.
Social networking channels are also leveraged to increase the visibility and awareness among young women. Efforts are undertaken to publish Government decisions affecting women online, and women are encouraged to discuss these decisions through the eParticipation platform “Tawasul”.
A number of national initiatives were already undertaken by various organizations to enable accessibility and engaging women among other vulnerable groups in the national digital transformation journey including their capacity building and ensuring accessibility to various digital channels and services. Some of these initiatives was already undertaken by the private sectors and NGOs.
Moreover, the National Digital Strategy has given priority to vulnerable groups including women through defined and measurable factors to ensure their accessibility to the public digital services and channels. The concept of internet to all has been applied in the Kingdom of Bahrain, bearing in mind the whole of Bahrain’s society. This was already measured and proven through the ITU figures that stated that the Kingdom Individuals accessibility to the Internet reached 99.5% including all the Society groups as per the latest report released by ITU on 2021. Accessibility and connectivity is enabled through various parties of the Kingdom in order for users to reach and conduct governmental services.
Women Safety & Protection
The Kingdom of Bahrain has taken serious initiatives towards the protection of its women and ensuring their safety and well-being. The Supreme Council for Women has launched The National Strategy to Protect Women from Domestic Violence as a commitment of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the second part of the fifth goal, which is: "Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including human trafficking and sexual abuse and other types of exploitation" as well as a commandment of Law No. (17) of 2015 Protection from domestic violence. The strategy is keen to secure and enhance the Bahraini women's rights and combat all forms of violence against them including domestic violence.
As of 2020, the percentage of abused Bahraini wives out of the total number of married Bahraini women decreased by 0.02% in 2019 compared with 2018. The percentage of cases of physical violence against wives out of the total number of married women in Bahrain decreased by 0.01% in 2019 compared with 2018. Moreover, the percentage of cases of verbal violence against wives out of the total number of married women in Bahrain stabilized in 2019 compared with 2018. Also ,the percentage of other cases of violence against wives out of the total number of married women in Bahrain decreased by 0.01% in 2019 compared with 2018.
The Government has dedicated multiple centers that are made available for women who do not feel safe and require help.
- Ministry of Interior - Police stations: 999
- Ministry of Health - Health Centers
- Supreme Council for Women: 80008006
- Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Awqaf - Family Reconciliation Office: 17513371
- Ministry of Labor and Social Development - (Family Counseling Center - Dar Al-Aman): 80008088
Civil Society institutions
- Bahrain Women's Union Family Support Center: 17141180
- Aisha Yateem Center for Family Counselling: 17430488 - 17430515
- Batelco Family Violence Care Center: 17597777
- The Awal Legal Aid Center of the Awal Women's Association: 17467037 - 17678947
- Eslah Family Counselling (Al Eslah Society): 17322842
Moreover, the Supreme Council for Women has developed the Women’s Support Center app (iOS, Android) to help in contribution to resolving Bahraini Women’s and any family issues, while facilitating their access to their rights as guaranteed to them by the constitution, national laws, and legislations. This is done in coordination with the relevant authorities.
The Women's Support Center also seeks to provide:
- Various online virtual consultations.
- Facilities and services that address the needs of Persons with Disabilities.
- Special Corner for applicant’s children.
- Confidentiality and privacy assurance.
- Continuous measuring of public satisfaction and receiving their proposals to develop the work of the Center.
- A waiting room equipped with all modern technical devices and facilities.
- Cutting-edge electronic systems.