Workshop on ending violence against women convened in Kuwait

Date: Thursday, May 23, 2019

Government officials and development partners met for the launch of the IMAGES Kuwait survey findings. Photo: Courtesy of WRSC Kuwait

The State of Kuwait held a workshop on 28 and 29 April to raise awareness on ending violence against women and girls in Kuwait. The workshop was convened by the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development (GSSCPD), in partnership with the Women’s Research and Studies Centre (WRSC) of Kuwait University, the UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States (ROAS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kuwait, and in collaboration with the Central Statistical Bureau, and Promundo, within the framework of the national programme to promote implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 5 in Kuwait.

The programme aims to set in motion longer-term transformative changes within the framework of global Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and is fully aligned with the New Kuwait national development plan to ensure optimization of the impact to support Kuwait’s national development priorities as articulated in the State Vision Kuwait 2035 of His Highness the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

The workshop launched the results of Kuwait’s first “International Men and Gender Equality Survey” in the Middle East and North Africa (IMAGES MENA), implemented by UN Women, international NGO Promundo with regional partners El Zanaty and Associates, and associated qualitative analysis.

Conducted in 2018, the study is one of the most comprehensive household surveys in the region and the first exercise of its kind in the GCC region focused on women’s empowerment, violence against women, and the perceptions, attitudes and understanding of both men and women in this regard.

Organizers noted that the study could not have taken place without the support of more than 1,900 Kuwaiti men and women aged 18 - 59 who participated in the study, the results of which showed favourable attitudes among Kuwaiti men and women towards the empowerment of women and the protection of women and girls from violence. The findings of IMAGES Kuwait will contribute to national data and knowledge base around women’s rights in Kuwait that will in turn help to inform effective policy development to implement the New Kuwait national development plan.

In terms of protecting women and girls’ rights, 79 per cent of men and 97 per cent of women surveyed support laws raising the minimum age of marriage to 18, and 69 per cent of men and 95 per cent of women are in favour of criminalizing domestic violence. An impressive 100 per cent of women and 98 per cent of men surveyed are in favor of criminalizing sexual harassment.

Examining men’s and women’s roles in childcare, the survey reveals that around 90 per cent of fathers have attended at least one antenatal visit, and more than 75 per cent were present at the birth of their youngest child. Meanwhile, 79 per cent of men and 93 per cent of women discuss personal matters with children.

Addressing the participants, Dr Khaled Mahdi, Secretary-General of GSSCPD, spoke of Kuwait’s commitment to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and said “it is imperative that we work together to end violence against women. We must tackle the root causes of it, and adopt a systemic and comprehensive approach that recognizes and protects women’s full and equal human rights. In this workshop today, we are bringing to light the results of our country’s first national survey on ending violence against women and girls”.

On behalf of UN Women ROAS, Josephine Moss, Coordination Specialist, commended the State of Kuwait and national stakeholders for their leadership in implementing this ground-breaking study and noted that “the Kuwait SDG 5 programme represents an innovative approach to strengthening national capital to implement Agenda 2030. This is the first such programme in the GCC and the Arab States region dedicated specifically to accelerating national implementation of SDG 5 and is a clear demonstration of Kuwait’s commitment to achieve women’s empowerment and the protection of women and girls’ fundamental rights.”

The partnership with the Kuwait University WRSC demonstrates the role for academia in sustainable development under Agenda 2030 and that the partnership in Kuwait has demonstrated the advantages inherent in partnering with academic research institutions to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including opportunities to connect with leaders of the women’s movement and emerging youth voices, to support an inclusive strategic approach to implementation of SDG 5 and national development priorities.

Dr Lubna Al-Kazi, Director of the WRSC at Kuwait University, said: “Unfortunately, many women today still face violence in their lives, therefore protecting women and girls against violence is a social responsibility. The findings of IMAGES MENA Kuwait shed light on a harsh reality that we need to acknowledge and prevent. The survey has been an eye-opener, proving that it is imperative to implement strategies to protect women in Kuwait, elevate their status and promote gender-positive policies across the board.”

Commenting on the results, Dr Shereen El Feki, Promundo’s Regional Director for Middle East and North Africa, said that “the survey results reflect Kuwait’s efforts to date to empower women, and offer a solid foundation on which to build evidence-based policies and programmes to help women, and men, to achieve their full potential.”

The workshop also provided an opportunity to learn from the experiences of other Arab countries where the related IMAGES Middle East and North Africa was conducted and explore how they utilized the findings and recommendations for programming purposes.