Women in Kuwait

The Politics of Gender

by Haya al-Mughni

Preface and Acknowledgements to the First Edition

My first contact with the women’s organizations in Kuwait dates back to 1984 when I went searching for answers to and support for my personal problems. I was then angry and confused.  In my job, no matter how hard I worked, I could not expect to be promoted or rewarded as my male colleagues were.  Being a woman meant that you had to be obedient and pleasing, and give up my personal needs in order to earn the respect of men and of the society at large.  It meant that I had to comply, both at home and at work, with male authority.

The women’s organizations were then very busy trying to secure suffrage for women.  I tried to help but did not have enough energy and enthusiasm.  Nor was I entirely convinced that political rights were the main issue for women in Kuwait.  I felt that far more pressing problems needed to be tackled, problems that lay at the heart of the relationships between men and women in this society.  I felt disappointed with the women’s organizations without fully knowing why.

Thus I am indebted to all those who introduced me to feminism and supported me through my studies.  Najat Sultan introduced me to the feminist movement, sharing with me her thoughts and ideas on feminism.  Colette Dowlings The Cinderella Complex was my first reading in feminism: it changed my life.  In October 1985 I moved to England to pursue my academic career in women’s studies, and eventually made the women’s organizations in Kuwait the subject of my research.  These organizations are still very active in Kuwait.  The Iraqi occupation interrupted their activities for seven months but did not change the essence of their work.

I owe a great deal to my friends and colleagues at Exeter University for their emotional and intellectual support throughout the period of my studies.  I should like to thank John Vincent, Barry Turner, Helen Kay, Julian Coker, Jock Mickshik, Sue and Stuart Dawson.  I am grateful, too, for the insightful comments, suggestions and editing of Helen Snively.  I remain deeply indebted to Andre Gaspard and to everyone at Saqi Books for their support and encouragement.  Without their help this book would not have been published.

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