Women in Diplomacy

International Women’s Day 2022 – H.E. Nisreen Rubaian, UNHCR Representative to Kuwait

During your tenure in Kuwait what is your opinion about women’s empowerment in society?

Kuwait has been at the forefront of progressive change, and its long-standing history in empowering women is proof of that. Since assuming my role as the representative for UNHCR to the state of Kuwait 6 months ago, I have met exemplary Kuwaiti women taking leadership roles in the governmental and private sector in addition to civil societies. Their sophisticated, knowledgeable, and humble characters reflect how the government has actively set a framework that allows for Kuwaiti women to take the lead. This is evident with how the Kuwaiti state facilitated Kuwaiti women’s access to education and the political sphere, enabling them to gain economic rights and financial independence long before many nations did.

How have you found women in Kuwait during your interaction with them in terms of their emancipation, education and outlook?

Globally, Kuwaiti women have come to be recognized as pioneers in many fields in the region. Despite my short time in Kuwait, I have sensed how the Kuwaiti government encourages women’s engagement in senior leadership roles in alignment with the UN’s SDG 5 on gender equality and vision 2035 through various activities and pilots. I have also gained extensive insight and knowledge about the extraordinary Kuwaiti women who, as early as the 1960s if not earlier, broke the mold back and changed the narrative regarding women’s roles in the social, educational, and political spheres, arts and theater included! Dr. Faiza Al-Kharafi, the first Arab woman to be president of a university, is a great example showcasing the role Kuwaiti women have come to take. In addition, we are now witnessing the designation of Kuwaiti women as Judges in courts, and this alone is a breakthrough achievement for Kuwaiti women and all Arab women.

What is your take on ​Gender Equality today for a Sustainable Tomorrow?

All women commonly face higher risks and more significant burdens from the impacts of climate change which are increased because of the vulnerability and insecurity of their situations while they are displaced. However, displaced women can and do play a critical role in responding to climate change central to their families and communities’ stability, preparedness, and resilience to climate shocks. This is where sources of knowledge and leadership in sustainably become central to managing households and community resources under challenging circumstances.

Here, I stress four main factors that should be at the core of gender-responsive approaches regarding climate change and displacement – 1) Inclusion and leadership, 2) Economic Empowerment, 3) Protection of rights, and 4) Well-being.

In your career have you faced discrimination or hurdles being a woman?

I am lucky to work in an organization that encourages equal opportunities and equal access to men and women, and I see it as I lead an office of 18 colleagues, most of whom are women! Throughout my career with UNHCR, I was surrounded by inspiring women who showed me resilience and encouraged me to be outspoken as a woman and as a junior humanitarian worker.

Women are increasingly participating in leadership roles do you see this trend rising and what do you feel should be done so that their participation can be increased?

This trend is definitely on the rise. We see women taking over what once was a male-dominated field. I am proud to say that I have seen refugee women lead in multiple fields in their societies and reshape policies, despite all the hardships and obstacles they faced. This shows the ultimate perseverance and courage a woman can showcase. One central point is that education is vital. It is the mirror of women’s development. Since education opportunities are becoming more accessible, this allows more women to have the chance to stand out and be taken seriously. Nowadays, we live in a different world that is very fast-paced, and women are definitely keeping up and will continue to need all the tools to make it in all fields as it gets more competitive.

Anything else you might like to add?

Happy International Women’s day to every woman leading, fighting, and struggling to shine and reach her full potential against all odds. To all the women out there, we are proud of you, and we support you. I hope that we see men and women equal to each other in all walks of life one day.

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