I went to a dinner with Slapperella where the speech was given by Dr. Masouma Al-Barrak (another reason why the British Business Forum is better than the American Business Council!). I have never heard her speak before (regrettably) and I really enjoyed it. She spoke of the history of political rights for women and gave me a much better insight of how things have been accomplished; but equally of how difficult it has been for her personally. She is a strong and humorous woman with a dynamic personality. I would love to listen to more of what she has to say. I didn’t know, for example, that out of the 10 candidates in her constituency, she received the most votes.
It was because I was all fired up from hearing Dr. Masouma that I thought I should defend another strong woman in politics in Kuwait who I admire.
The US Ambassador, Deborah Jones, has received a lot of flack recently for comments she made about cats and dogs. You can google the whole story if you want, but some of the fanatic religious MPs have asked for her expulsion from Kuwait; which I find preposterous!
So, for the official Desert Girl commentary:
I believe HE Ambassador Jones' comment, taken out of context was, “...refer to them as the four cats and I said does that mean the remainder are dogs in the parliament? ....”
I'm an American woman who has lived and worked in Kuwait for the past 13 years and I love Kuwait. I have seen several ambassadors come and go and Ambassador Jones has been like a breath of fresh air to Kuwait. I have been extremely happy to see a female Ambassador to Kuwait. She has brought a much-needed perspective to her office and there have been noticeable positive changes at the Embassy.
HE Ambassador Deborah Jones is articulate, speaks fluent Arabic (with a regional accent – which is a rarity), knows the culture and religion of the country, and shows sincerity and kindness towards everyone she comes into contact with. In addition, she has an outstanding sense of humor; in almost every photo of her with members of the Kuwaiti government; regardless of their politics or religious values, everyone appears with a smile, as if they are in on a joke.
That is why I am certain that Ambassador Jones' comments on cats and dogs were of a humorous nature and in were in no way meant to insult male members of Kuwait's parliament. Americans generally use the phrase “cats and dogs” like “apples and oranges”.
It is unfortunate that some people - and this could apply not only to Kuwait, but anywhere in the world - are threatened by a strong, intelligent woman and seek any opportunity to create difficulties for her. This could equally apply to the difficulties faced by the four female members of parliament. Dr. Masouma Saleh Al-Mubarak, as an example, was the first female Cabinet Minister to be appointed in the history of Kuwait and faced (and continues to face) tremendous hardship by opponents; as do the other leading women in Kuwait’s political arena.
Women holding high-level positions in Kuwait (and other countries in the Middle East) face battles from people who believe that a man would be better suited to be in their position. These women are in politics because they have worked hard, persevered, and been nominated to their positions based on merit; not gender. If a man had been better suited for the job, he would be in it. Ambassador Jones was posted to Kuwait based on her expertise. She is of great value to Kuwait in terms of positive relations between the US and Kuwait.
I wish that regardless of gender, we could all just get down to business for the collective good of the Country.