Christina/ November 17, 2009/ Culture

The often-quoted picture of oppressed women in Arabic countries that leave their houses only fully covered, black gloves on their hands ist much used in Western press. At the same time it does not take much to find out that career women also exist in the Arabic world. An article of the online-service „Qantara“ gave me an idea.
The report was written due to the election of the first female mayor of Marrakech. Because of that I was looking for more examples in the Middle and Near East.

The election of the female mayor already took place last summer. The south moroccan city is now under the direction of the 33rd year old Fatima Azzahra al-Mansouri. The election is especially appreciated by the female population and is acknowledged as a favourable sign. However the political scene is still dominated by men and nepotism.

Thereby the problems of Moroccan women seem not to differ too much from the one’s of German women impenetrable insider deals of men in jobs, the juggle with difficulty kids and career plus the pressure ofsocial expectation. In rural areas also religious notions play one’s part.

Therefore it is likely that Mrs. al-Mansouri has to proof that she affect more than any men. Even though she is not the first femal mayor. In 2003 already Asmae Chaabi was elected mayor in Essaouira, a famous seaside resort at the Atlantic Coast. She became the first female councillor of Morocco.

pilots, presenters and architects – of femal success stories

What might come as a surprise to many readers is that Arabic women are also successful in other sectors. Airlines, e.g., have been employing women since years. The Jordanian Tagrheed Akasheh worked already in the middle of the 80s for Royal Jordanian. Later on she was even appointed to chief pilot. In Saudi Arabia the 27 years old Hanadi Sakarija Hindi became famous when she obtained the accreditation as pilot in 2004. She was supported and promoted by prince Walid bin Talal, the kings nephew. Bin Talal commented on the event „a big step towards more occupation of women and more active participation of them within the Saudi society.“

In the media as figurehead

Women in the media seem to share a common fate: Often there are just lures for advertisers or consumers. But also as presenters they make a name for oneself. Pioneers on the Arabic market are “Dubai TV” and “Al-Arabiya”. More realistic information on the daily life of women both in Europe and Arabic countries could surely contribute to reduce stereotypes on both side.

A men bastion is staggering

The incident was treated by the press as a sensation: This year the first mosque designed by a women was opened up in Istanbul. She is called Zeynep Fadillioglu and attributes the excitement to the fact that „Istanbul has been progressive at all times.“ In “her” mosque she hopes women do not have to enter from the backdoor anymore. Despite all critical reporting from the Western press there are positive signs in the Arabic world. A second glance behind the veil seems to be worth while.

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