The recent International Women’s Day on the 8th of March was an occasion to take stock of the status of Oman women in society and feel proud of their achievements. Sultan Qaboos Bin Said who has taken a deep interest in their welfare.
Indicative of the role they are playing is evident in many areas. An example is the workplace. Statistics show that their numbers in the public sector has jumped from 29, 218 in 2003 to 68,200 in 2012. In the private sector 35,248 women were employed in 2012 against 13,383 in 2003.
The important role played by women is evident in the kind of jobs they are engaged in. A case in point is the woman pilot in Oman Air, which even has Omani hostesses. Women are employed in important positions in Petroleum Development Oman. Scores of women are working in the banking sector.
Omani women are working as doctors and nurses in public and private sector hospitals. Women are employed as teachers. There are women working in sales. Oman women can also be found behind the counters in shops and supermarkets. Even in the area of governance, women are playing an important role. There are women ministers. The Shura Council has a woman member. Women are posted in various positions in the Sultanate’s diplomatic missions abroad.
In recent years, the programme of Omanisation, initiated in 1988, has helped women in a great way. Large numbers of women found employment after the Sultan issued orders to the public and private sectors about three years ago to provide 50,000 jobs for nationals. Subsequently, as new targets were set annually in the state budget, more and more women found employment. The important role played by Omani women in the workplace can be attributed to the increasing importance being given to their education.
Before 1970, there were just three schools for about 900 boys with no provision for women. After 1970, the education scenario changed as the core of the Sultanate’s education policy was based on the principle of ‘education for all’ and girls began to be given equal importance as boys in admissions to educational institutions. And today, the number of boys and girls in schools, colleges and universities are also most equal.
There has been a dramatic increase in the participation of Omani women in the public and private sector, as well as a growing trend towards female Omani students opting for private school education and going on to pursue higher education, a study recently released by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) reveals.
According to the NCSI figures, the number of Omani women holding top management, middle management and direct management positions within the Public Sector witnessed a healthy 50 per cent growth since 2008, with a total of 774 Omani women holding Senior Public Service positions against the 2008 total of 510.
At the end of 2012, Omani women accounted for approximately 10 per cent of all senior public sector roles in the country.
The figures highlight the increasing emphasis placed by the government on providing opportunities for talented Omani women to play a greater role in the public and private sector as the economy continues to diversify and grow. The study also reveals a growing trend amongst young Omani women to choose private schooling, and to pursue higher education.
According to the NCSI study, the number of Omani females enrolled in private schools has almost doubled since the 08/09 school year, with the total number of such Omani females rising to 32,434 for the 12/13 school year, against the 08/09 total of 17,218. During the same period, the number of Omani females enrolled in higher educational institutions rose by 20 per cent, with 51,048 Omani females enrolled in the 11/12 school year against the 07/08 total of 41,533.
Dr. Hussein Shehadeh