Gender equality worst in Saudi Arabia, while Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait top list
Bahraini women are the most empowered in the Middle East, according to research published this week, with females in the Gulf state closest to men in terms of equality.
The findings of a study, released by payments provider Mastercard, showed that Saudi Arabian women were the least empowered regionally.
The index ranked female socio-economic participation in each country based on a number of criteria including education, employment opportunities and involvement in government, to come up with a single score out of 100.
Bahrain topped the list with 69 points, while Saudi Arabia tallied just 36.9.
The UAE was a close second in the index with 67.5, Qatar third with 67.1, Kuwait fourth with 63.5 and Oman fifth with 63.4.
Levant nation Lebanon scored poorly with 51.8.
Treatment of women, particularly foreign workers, in the country has faced scrutiny in recent weeks after an Ethiopian domestic helper committed suicide in the wake of a video of her being physically abused by an employer was broadcast on the internet.
Inequality between genders in Saudi Arabia is also highly publicised, although the government here has been taking tentative steps towards reform.
Last year, ruler King Abdullah said women would be allowed to stand and vote in 2015’s municipal elections, while authorities have also increased employment opportunities for women.
Georgette Tan, group head, communications, Asia Pacific, MEA, Mastercard, said: “Women’s socio-economic advancement starts at the basic level - from fostering confidence in girls through education, to giving women opportunities for skills development and regular employment.”