Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Q8ti Woman

The very first impression, we as expatriates have, about Kuwaiti women is that they are an oppressed group without any identity of their own. Arab women are generally portrayed as victimized and subservient. But my  stay at Ahmadi hospital during the birth of my daughter Mehr gave me the opportunity to observe, know and converse with them which is otherwise not possible as they keep to themselves and don’t mix with expatriates. I was quite surprise to know about their society, their rituals and customs that women follow after pregnancy and the position of women in Kuwaiti society. It’s quite contradictory to the common picture we have about them.
The Kuwaiti ladies who know English are very friendly and converse whenever they meet other non Kuwaiti ladies. Of course the conversation doesn’t become too personal but remains restricted to their and their babies health and the common “hi-hello”. But there are some exceptionally friendly ladies that I met and made friendship with and who told me about their culture and customs.

The majority of Arab women dress conservatively. Some women dress in clothes that do not cover their faces or hair, while others cover them. For example, a very conservative woman might wear a long black garment called "Abayah" that covers her body from the shoulders down to her feet. Under this cover she could be wearing a traditional Arabian dress in full body length with long sleeves and filled with beautiful bead work, or she could be wearing the latest style from an internationally known designer. In addition to the Abayah, a very conservative woman would also wear a face and head cover. Some women would wear the Abayah without the head and face cover, while others might wear a scarf-like cover called "Hejab" that covers the hair but not the face. Under this cover the Kuwaiti ladies wear gown of white or cream colour. It appeared strange to me as we commonly wear dresses of dark color during our hospital stay. When I enquired, pat came the reply from one of the Kuwaiti lady that they associate white with purity and happiness and birth with white color.

When a woman has a new baby, her relatives, friends, and neighbors visit her to congratulate her and to present her with gifts. The Kuwaiti’s gift particular things in particular situations. While visiting friends and relatives in hospital, they take flowers, chocolates and fruits and for the new born they gift baby items and flowers. That’s why one can find lot of bouquets in front of the hospital rooms where Kuwaiti woman stay.

In an Arabian family, gender and age plays a big role in specifying responsibilities. The father is usually the head of the family and the provider for its needs, while the mother plays a major role in raising children and taking care of the house. This structure is not always the norm; in recent years, both the father and the mother provide for family needs, while household chores are taken care of by maids and servants. In the past, most major family decisions were made by the father, but recently some of these decisions are made jointly by both the father and the mother. Sons and daughters are taught to follow the inherited traditions and are given responsibilities that correspond with their age and gender. Sons are usually taught to be protectors of their sisters and to help the father with his duties inside and outside the house, while daughters are taught to be the source of love and emotional support in the family, as well as helping their mother to take care of household chores.

Winds of change do not spare any culture; the changes that entered the structure of some Arabian houses is not due to economical needs, but education for both men and women that is mandated by law in the Arabian countries. Education from kindergarten up to university degrees is free to nationals and sometimes residents of these Arabian countries.

Although culture, traditions, and Islam strongly stress the importance of women's roles in taking care of the house and raising children, it is a mistake to think that Arabian women are confined to this role. There are many successful Arabian businesswomen throughout the Arabian region, but because of cultural reasons, they conduct business in an inconspicuous way. A daughter lives at her family house as long as she is not married; once she is married she moves to her husband's home. When a woman gets married there are no changes made to any part of her name.

Thus it wont be wrong to say that they are the backbone of their society and family.


Babs said...

Greetings from Amman! Excited about your blog! Will be back to read more - my daughter is just waking up. Hope to make it to Kuwait while in this corner of the world.

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laylaguo said...

Great post! Thanks so much for sharing this with the world! : )