Kuwait is a Middle Eastern country boarded on the east by the Arabian Gulf and slot in between Iraq and Saudi Arabia on the south and west. Kuwait became a fully independent country since 1961. Kuwait was the first Arab country in the Gulf to have an elected parliament. Women were not allowed to vote or elect or stand as candidates in the elections until 1999, when Shaikh Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah issued a decree giving women their political rights but it was defeated in the National Assembly. Finally, in 2005 Kuwaiti parliament gave women their fully political rights.
In pre-oil, Kuwaiti women were forbidden from going to schools and usually were allowed only to recite Quran at (Al Mutawa’a) house. The merchant classes were the first to educate their daughters to extend their families’ power. After the new oil economy stage, women started to participate in the society to change stereotypes and traditional role. In addition they started to deal with the positive changes on lifestyle and contributed in the development of Kuwait society. Without any doubt, when women in Kuwait were granted the right for education by law, their life started to change and became part of the workforce.
Education gave women the power to claim for their rights by the efforts of other women who were working in media sectors. Kuwaiti women in media highlighted and raised their problems and demands through TV and Radio programs, articles published in the newspapers, TV drama and plays on the theatre stage. Media was the most effective field that women made progress and gained power to achieve their goals. Media is a broad term that includes mass and social media; mass media is the means of transmitting messages to broad audiences.
It includes television, radio, newspaper, magazines, books and so forth. Social media are the means of connecting and interacting actively it includes cell phones, e-mails, PTA and the web. Media in Kuwait includes news, newspapers, television, radio, journals, news services, press abstracts, publishing and bookseller associations. Kuwaiti women made a good contribution in the media because Kuwait has the most vocal and transparent media among Arab countries also well known in the freedom of press.
The government funds some of the newspapers and satellite channels and owned Kuwait news agency (KUNA). I 2009, Kuwait had fifteen newspapers companies besides the English newspapers; Arab times, and Kuwait times. The Kuwaiti law controls media to forbid insulting religion references related to God, Islam, and Profit Mohammed (PBUH). Moreover, another law was made to forbid anybody from criticizing the ruling family in specific the Emir. In order to join media a person has to stick to the pervious laws concerning religion and the Emir otherwise he/she will be eligible for fines or send to the jail.
Under the Press and Publication Law, the government suspended some of the local newspapers for violating this law for example; Al-Anba’a was suspended for five days for publishing an article about separating between the positions of crown prince from prime minister. Women respected both laws in media especially in the press. In the old days rarely women were encourage to join media in Kuwait because it is an Islamic country and women were preferred to stay home.
Some women were very lucky because they have been married to an open-minded educated husbands and made positive impact on the women who had joined Kuwaiti media and became stars of Kuwaiti society. It was noticeable that Kuwaiti women in the media were attacked by some Islamic groups. Kuwaiti women who wear the hijab didn’t dare to study any subject related to media. Studies and social research proved the impact of media messages on the individual behavior and collective beside their power on the political decision.
Women started media in Kuwait through television, radio, the press and other means; the famous publication was through T. V. Kuwait T. V. began to broadcast at the earliest sixties in black and white, the building was closed to the Dsman Palace. The first Kuwaiti woman who entered the media on Kuwaiti television in 1961 was Fatima Hussein, followed by a number of announcers such as Nouria Al-Sdani, Anissa Jafar who was known as “Mama Anissa”. Other active women in Kuwait radio were; Amina Al-Ansari, Iqbal Al-Gharaballi and Amal Al-Abdullah who later turned to the T. V. activities, the previous names were the first generation of female announcers in Kuwait T. V. and radio.
One of the most famous announcers in Kuwait T. V. and radio is Fatimah Hussein. Fatimah Hussein Al-Essa Al-Qanaie, born in Kuwait 1937, completed her Secondary School Education in Kuwait and was granted a scholarship by Government to study abroad in the University. She was the first woman who was allowed to study out of Kuwait at Cairo University, College of Arts, and Journalism Department 1956-1960. After graduation she was married in 1960 to Suliman Al Mutawa and accompanied him to the USA for his Master Degree. She did not waste her time and decided to study English at the Community Services Department of Columbia University.
She started to practice broadcasting in New York, with the Voice of America Radio, where she prepared and presented messages to Radio Kuwait, under the theme name “Journal of a Kuwaiti Lady in New York”. Radio Kuwait awarded her efforts and offered her another scholarship to study the art of Broadcasting in the University of New York and she managed to take several courses in the Art in the Art of Broadcasting. After she returned to Kuwait and started to work at Radio Kuwait she prepared he own daily program about woman and the family for 15 minutes. She became a media woman with the programs she prepared on the family issues.
Kuwaiti Journalist women were the less in media sector due to the nature of work and the difficult circumstances. Hidaya Sultan Al-Salem was the owner and editor of the weekly “al-Majales”. She was supposed to be honored for her contributions and articles but instead she was murdered on 20 March at her 66 years old. She was famous and active journalist when she was killed on her way to work. A Kuwaiti military man was following her and in the middle of the street he opened fire on her chauffeur-driven car in Kuwait City.
The killer confessed that he took revenge and killed Hidaya because of her article about the girls of his ribe Al Awazem. Moreover, Kuwaiti women made significant contributions in TV drama and were famous in Gulf and Arab countries. Also, they made influential contribution in Kuwaiti movie (Bas Ya Bahar), which presented the old Kuwaiti life when they were diving for pearls and traveled six months away from their homes. In this movie Hayat Al Fahad expressed the life of Kuwaiti women at that time. More contributions of Kuwaiti women in media were developed by Dr. Suad Al Sabah; one of the ruling family members in Kuwait. She was graduated from the Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences at Cairo University in 1973.
In 1981 obtained PhD in economics from Guilford University (UK). She established Suad Al Sabah Publishing and Distribution House. She writes poetry that was published in several books. Another famous flag does not need any introduction, who does not know Mama Anissa? More than 45 years she was introducing and preparing programs for children in Kuwait. Her programs attracted children beside adults and brought happiness to the children who participated from all over Kuwait. She approached the childhood world and became the mother of all Kuwait’s children.
Conclusion Kuwait, which is located in the north west of the Arabian Gulf generally, divided into two different periods: pre-oil and after the discovery of oil. In the pre-oil period Kuwait society was controlled by male only while women were not involved in any work except house working and did not attend schools for education, they were reciting Quran at (Mutawa) house. Kuwaiti women had very hard life , they were not involved in the public life and were forbidden from education. The first who made changes in women life were the merchant families when they sent their daughters to schools. Education was the spark that lightened women life.
After oil, the government realized that education is necessary to make the progress and development. Women claimed for their rights and struggled until they were able to elect, vote and nominate in 2005. They fought for their freedom by different means. Kuwaiti women who were involved in Media encouraged women to claim for their rights. Women in media have a powerful role in the social and political life. Some of these women joined Kuwaiti TV such as Fatima Hussain who was famous for the family program, Mama Anisa who was famous for Children programs, Amina Al Sharrah, Mona Taleb who were from the irst generation of media women.
Other women became journalist such as Hidaya Alsalem who was murdered because of her politics view and articles. Moreover, Kuwaiti women developed the drama, poetry and movies to express their demands. I believe that Kuwaiti women deserve to be honored for their will to win, as they did not slender to the cruelty of traditions and custom. Even though they have paid their life for the sake of their beliefs and courage but at the end they made progress and moved on to share with men all aspects of life and cancel the discriminations between men and women.