By Nourah Amer Al-Oseimi
Exclusive to The Times, Kuwait
I often wonder about women in politics, the unique challenges they face and the scrutiny that they are subjected to based solely on their gender. When asked about politics, I tend to shrug and say “I’d rather not get political” — my stance on that has not changed. I avoid discussing politics as often as I can because the diplomat in me wants to keep everybody happy. On the other hand, Dr. Khadijah Al Qallaf, an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, is not afraid to speak her mind and has proudly declared her candidacy for parliament in the famously conservative 5th electoral district of Kuwait.
During my Zoom call with Dr. Khadijah, she shared with me several personal details about her upbringing that propelled her towards a career in politics. She recalled stories about her father running for parliament in the same district and proudly obtaining the trust and votes of many people. I was deeply moved by her desire to follow in the footsteps of her late father and how unrelenting she was in her pursuit of victory, change and development.
For Dr. Khadijah, development and education are a part of a narrative that she is very familiar with. She holds a PhD in Gifted & Talented Education from the Arabian Gulf University. A proud advocate for education and its power to serve as a catalyst for development in Kuwait, Dr. Khadijah believes in the importance of appointing the right people in the right positions to improve the overall state of the country. She believes in empowering Kuwaitis to serve as consultants, leaders and advocates for our nation’s growth.
Given her background in education, I wondered what prompted her towards such a drastic shift in her career and why she decided to run for elections this year. Dr. Khadijah informed me that she was triggered by the events of the COVID-19 pandemic and what they have revealed about the structural deficiencies in our government and political system. She felt personally responsible to do her part as a Kuwaiti citizen to combat corruption, stand in the face of those who deter our nation from prospering, and to defend our constitution through and through.
In another part of our conversation, Dr. Khadijah and I also discussed what female voters typically look for in a political candidate. The prevailing sentiment that came out of that conversation can be summarized in one word, equality. Women are declared equal in the Kuwait constitution, however, according to Dr. Khadijah so many of our laws, processes and procedures preclude women from accessing their fundamental rights to housing, guardianship and access to healthcare and education, in particular for Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaiti men and the impact this has on their children. Circling back to her educational roots, Dr. Khadijah believes that people are the true driving force behind any country’s development efforts and that it is important to align the needs of the labor market with educational learning outcomes so that young people are equipped with the necessary tools to remain competitive and to add value through the work that they do.
In her closing remarks, Dr. Khadijah emphasized to me the importance of combating corruption and to not take a complacent approach when it comes to participating in the upcoming election. Change will not happen unless we take a concrete step towards making it happen. It is necessary for us to identify the candidate whose values we share, who we believe is fit to represent us, and who can drive positive change for our people and our country overall. Dr. Khadijah is asking you to, first and foremost, exercise your political right as a Kuwaiti citizen to vote.
Following our conversation, I contemplated the themes that Dr. Khadijah and I discussed. I also wondered why I never did exercise my right to vote in previous elections — I was certainly old enough. The truth of the matter is change does not happen overnight and it does not happen because one person wants to make it happen. Change is an evolving process that is fundamentally participatory. I am reminded of a famous quote given by Irish statesman and philosopher, Edmond Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
It is our responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable, it is our responsibility to advocate for positive growth and development for our country, it is our responsibility to exercise our political right and to vote for who we believe are the right candidates to represent us, and most importantly, it is our responsibility to do more for our beloved Kuwait.
Nourah Al-Oseimi is a 28-year-old Kuwaiti who holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Nourah has worked in different places such as the Central Bank of Kuwait and the United Nations. She serves as a free-lance contributing writer to The Times Kuwait. Her column, Essentially Kuwaiti, features an in-depth look on exceptional young Kuwaitis and their efforts towards the realization of a New Kuwait.
Disclaimer: The views represented in this article are based solely on the conversation held between Dr. Khadijah Al Qallaf and Ms. Nourah Al-Oseimi. Ms. Nourah Al-Oseimi and The Times Kuwait, news-magazine have not and will not endorse any political candidate in the upcoming election or in any future political activity or event.