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Arab Women Viewpoints with Respect to Their Participation in Social Development in the Society



F. Rokni and A. Poladian
 
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ABSTRACT

This study, with particular emphasis on women, investigates the roles of women in lasting social developments and the levels of their participation in various forms, in Bahrain. The outcome of this research study indicates factors affecting women to be more active and progressive or being hindered in their struggles need deliberation The main objective of this research was to study the elements, facilitating or deterring, involved in women participation in social activities from their point of views and by analyzing their viewpoints, deal with their participation in social, cultural and legal activities in their societies. To be able to proceed with the study and research it would be possible to propose the following pivotal questions and seek answers in order to fully understand and appreciate the fundamental elements compelling them to participate in social activities.

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  How to cite this article:

F. Rokni and A. Poladian, 2009. Arab Women Viewpoints with Respect to Their Participation in Social Development in the Society. Journal of Applied Sciences, 9: 1293-1300.

DOI: 10.3923/jas.2009.1293.1300

URL: https://scialert.net/abstract/?doi=jas.2009.1293.1300
 

INTRODUCTION

One of the most important problems in planning for social developments is the inclusion of women participation in the processes. The united Nation has put forward various plans to close the wide gap between developing and developed countries in order to reduce poverty throughout the world. Among the Arab countries the issue has been addressed more vigorously recently. For these countries employing human resources, specially women is essential and it seems, with regard to the criteria considered as the country’s development indicators, some Arab countries have fallen behind and the backwardness is more evident where women involvements are concerned.

It is of course true that in most Arab countries situations for women have been improving steadily and they have progressed in areas like education, health and social works significantly, however, despite all of these progresses, like many other countries in the world, women have not been able to become involved in management and executive jobs.

In the so called underdeveloped countries the issue is very serious and they must take the initiatives and learn from other countries experiences and consider and address the parameters facilitating or inhibiting and preventing women involvement in their social development processes.

Predominance role of patriarchy, the influential presence of social expectations and limiting cultural freedom along with superstitious beliefs, historical habits and indecent customs and traditions, which contradict the spirit of religion, oppose women participation and presence in many aspect of social and political decision making and processing in the society.

Another important, significant and influential factor affecting women progress within some Arab countries is the lack of self confidence in their competencies and capabilities. These and the presence of discriminating opportunities in acquiring experiences in socio-political arena, flourishing talents and innovating new technology, has deprived Arab women using their talents and executive powers in their countries.

Human himself is an important source of wealth and can only be taken as capital when he/she is employed and utilized efficiently and appropriately. It has been said that women are half of the society but their effectiveness can be beyond that. An Arab poet present woman as culture’s focal point in a society and if she is allowed to develop and progress the society will be exalted and majestic. Closer study indicates that the main difference between advanced and underdeveloped countries, from progressing and developing point of views are utilization of human wealth. Policy planners in a country should include women in their development strategies in such a way that the 50% of the wealth of the country performs efficiently as well (Doumato and Posusney, 2003).

In the meanwhile external pressure for procurement of women’s rights and feminism, along with explosive domestic demands and requirements, has put greater emphasis on the utilization of human experiences for improving human society as a whole. Feminists believe that men exploit women to do domestic house chores and they prefer to keep them at home. Men dissuade women entering work market and even if they allow them to work, they still keep them under their strict control. Differentiation of men and women in a society is rather a social process than being natural or biological and universal, in fact women work more than men do. Women in rural areas participate in the field work as well as doing their domestic jobs (Pamela and Wallas, 2001). Performing work at home, women pave the way for men to work and make money. According to UNESCO’s study, women work between seventy to eighty hours a week while their leisure time is only two third of their spouses (Khoi, 1996). Job varieties are limited for women. Current statistics show that women are mainly employed in Government Department of Education and Health. In 1980 in a conference organized for women in Copenhagen, the UN presented statistical data regarding lobs performed by women. The report stated that between two third and three quarter of jobs were given to women. Women prepare 45% of food universally, this is while 10% of world income belongs to women and only 1% of wealth and properties are owned by them. The interesting point here is that part of the 1% wealth and properties is owned by men who put their wealth under their spouse’s name to evade paying tax (French, 1993). One of the indicators pertaining progress and development in a society is the active presence of women in major components of the fabric of the society like political, cultural and economical arenas which are also being emphasized within the international laws. In view of the fact that women comprise half the world population, materialization of progress and development would only be realizable when women, like men, participate in development processes and enjoy and benefit their contributions (Turner, 1999).

Defined participation in social science dictionary as bellow: To have share or interest in a subject through which one obtains benefit or profit as an individual or take part in group activities and acquires wealth or status. (Ghadimi, 2001). Defines participation as: Willfully and consciously participating in all the activities and affairs, for the purpose of managing and making decision with a society; appraising and evaluating actions and activities carried out by the members; directly or indirectly getting involved in the formation of socio- political life of a society through accepting responsibility. The practical application of the definition above and other ones is to prepare and pave the ground road concerning all, men and women, so that they become involved in the management of their affairs in every aspect of their lives. And women who not only are half of the human resources, but also bring up, educate and foster both genders of the society, therefore have major role in the society.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Survey methodology which is one of the attributive methods of study has been employed here. Statistical samples are taken from employed women who share a common factor of being employed by the government of Bahrain in 2006. The purpose of study is to evaluate view point of the interest group with respect to the sources and factors promoting and or preventing them participating in social activities concerning their progress and development in life. The total number of women employed by the government (N) was 17544 (Seif Afjei, 2002) and therefore random sampling technique was chosen as (N) was sufficiently large and would not introduce an element of bias. In view of the fact that statistical population was large and also for the purpose of investigation, the best procedure available for measurement was to apply questionnaire form. For the purpose of avoiding bias a pilot study was with open questionnaire was arranged. Five questions pertaining fundamental elements compelling women participating in social activities were compiled and sent to forty expert women who were employed in various executive and administrative jobs within the government organizations. All the returned questionnaires were analyzed evaluated using the technique concerning changing qualitative respond to quantitative data (Bazargan and Hejazi, 1999). All the questionnaire subjects or elements (social, cultural, family, individual/or personal and educational) were divided, categorized and heavily weighed. All the elements were defined and coded so that all the categories would appear once only and would not show up in any other categories. After determining the contents and categorizing the elements, two expert analysts analyzed the information and converted it into a quantitative data. The preliminary study results showed that women answered most questions concerning socio-cultural problems (95) and least answered were concerning legal matters (19). From the pilot study results the main real questionnaire form was developed and published. The main questionnaire form contained 48 questions, based on Likert which would allow measuring the difference or the intensity of a character, with five answering column each of which represented the degree or level of response to the particular question. These columns had headings of:

Strongly agreed
Agreed
Indifferent
Disagree
Strongly disagree

The dependent variants which were under investigation were view point of women. These were:

Social elements
Cultural elements
Personal elements
Family elements
Legal elements
Educational elements

The independent variances were:

Age
Level of education
Years of work and experience
Marital status
Field of education

Case study, Bahrain: Bahrain is an archipelago situated on the edge of Persian Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It is an Islamic state with a population of seven million people and the area of 694 km2. About 41.49% of the population is women who represent 25% of the work force which is considerably greater then 17.5 and are part of the work force (Al-Najjar, 2005) 44.6% of the population work with the age range of 15-65. The country is a principality and is ruled by Al Khalifa family. On December 16th 1971 the country joined the United Nation and in 1973 following demonstration and pressure from people the country acquired parliament (Sayed Ali, 2002).

Bahrain has demonstrated socio-political development since it joined UN and the changes have been perceptible despite the opposing elements of the ruling Sheikhdom. In March 2005 the council of women, as a national strategy for women advancement and development, was established. On this occasion the Caliph suggested, as a good will, the followings:

Greater in crease in awareness of women with regard to their legal rights with respect to all aspects of their life
Establishment of agencies in provinces in order to provide and create ground for greater integration of political role along with employment merging with family roles and responsibilities
Finalization of laws pertaining family matters in such manner that the equality and justice shall be practiced in all matters concerning women in Bahrain. In 2001 the parliament passed a bill to legalize teaching democracy and human right subjects in primary and secondary schools. The legislative power requested the ministry of education to put the bill into effect (Almezel, 2003)

This study, with particular emphasis on women, investigates the roles of women in lasting social developments and the levels of their participation in various forms, in Bahrain. The main objective of this research was to study the elements, facilitating or deterring, involved in women participation in social activities from their point of views and by analyzing their viewpoints, deal with their participation in social, cultural and legal activities in their societies. To be able to proceed with the study and research it would be possible to propose the following pivotal questions and seek answers in order to fully understand and appreciate the fundamental elements compelling them to participate in social activities (Khonji, 2004).

Is there any relationship between women participation in their society and:

Standard level of education?
Field of education?
Years of work and experience?
Marital status?
Age?

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

At the out set, it seems necessary to discuss the theoretical approach of the subject.

The question arises here is this: What parameters cause women not to be able to enter different social activities within the society easily and without any prejudices? What factors and elements affect their active participation?

Legal consideration: From legal point of view, women do not have great input in legislating laws pertaining their welfare and affairs. Legislative laws regarding women’s rights are usually considered and passed irrespective of their real exigencies and time relevancies. Patriarchal legislative influences with respect to women’s rights, in many facets, especially in Arab countries, are evident and the current existing laws in these countries prove that the laws relating to family life, for example management, divorce, finance and labour laws, are all based on gender biases (Kar, 1999). In Arab countries, gender roles and dynamism is based on traditional model and it has four elements in itself:

Within the family core, instead of a person as the cardinal unit of the society in which men and women have a complementary role but not equal, both men and women are considered as a valuable cultural wealth of the family
Men are known as the sole breadwinner of the family
The family status, honour, difference and modesty are all upon the shoulders of women’s honour and modesty and this in turn has placed limitations upon both genders’ relationship
Imbalances in personal power are reflected within the family laws

The paradigm assumes that women marry in early age and their responsibilities within the family and the society as a whole would consist of being housewives and mothers. Men are the head of the family who protect and support their family financially. Women shall depend on their men’s support and protection and men shall control their wives and children and shall consider their wives wishes and activities in general.

The paradigm in Arab countries in the Gulf can be generalized as the following:

Women economical participation in employment opportunities are limited and unsatisfactory because they leave their jobs either when they marry or when they expect a baby
There is job and salary discrimination and this trend disappoints and disillusions women because they think their work is worthless
Labour laws, in this region, prohibit discrimination against women but in some sections it discourages employers to employ women. In some Arabian countries, Women according to the law, must obtain permission from their male relative to go on business travel where as in Bahrain this law is not enforced and men and women have equal rights to travel without having have to obtain permission. And of course these conspicuous limited freedoms of movement are detrimental to the well being of women

In view of progressive improvement in areas such as education, socio-economic structure growing political awareness in societies, a serious review and reevaluation of laws regarding women progress and development must take place (Chamlou, 2004).

Education parameters: Women education must be evaluated quantitatively and qualitatively. Effective education can reduce the negative structural aspect of participation of women in the development and progress. Women education not only increases the family income but also due to their influence in the family they would have extensive and broad effect in the society.

Working conditions in the markets are such that inequalities in many aspects become intensified. For every five male managers there is only one female manager, yet, women are all subject to all kinds of discriminations.

With due regard to the fact that any capital investment in educating women shall have a better return than that of men, therefore if the chasm between men and women are closed, undoubtedly society shall benefit immensely from its human wealth resources (Schultz, 1990).

Investment in education not only diminishes the gender gap, but it also promote the level of profit, increases productivities and income. For this reason, in the past decades, Arab governments in the Persian Gulf have invested 5.3% of their gross domestic products in education, which has been the highest investment so far.

Statistical data provide us with the information that women students and female university educational board member numbers have been increasing in such rates that in some faculties the government has had to ration the number of female board members (Koolaee and Hafezian, 2006). The rate of illiteracy in Bahrain in the year 2000 for female has reached 17.4% which indicates that politicians in this country have put greater emphasis on education especially where women are concerned. Many of these countries’ citizens have advocated and demanded gender segregation and the government was obliged to establish university for women in July 2005.

Social parameters: Women activities in a society arise from their social bases and the role they perform within the society. Social status of a woman in the society is exactly the value given by the society to her for the role and the consequential obligation she has. The role is the collection of activities and duties and the social base or value is the status arising from the performances of those activities and obligations or duties (Alagheband, 1997) states that every person, in his/her life, accomplishes various levels of status and enacts and performs all the roles. On other way, the concept of role and base or status refers to a single phenomenon. Base is a collection of status or social position and values and ’role’ reflects the manner and behavior of social status. The first group (status) is entrusted to people based on gender, age and race and the second group (role) are assigned according to the individual efforts and being nominated by the society.

In societies where traditions play major role in day to day life, the status is based on gender, age and race. In modern societies, however, social status of a person is based on individual performance and selection by the society. The meaning of role in any situations implies series of behavioral expectations and reciprocal expectations from other roles. This means role play expectations are entirely mutual and commonly shared equally. When the leaders of an organization value and respect their female executive, then surely all the staff and subordinates will follow the same behavioral manners. Social roles are learned while living and accepting gaining experience in the society and the learned person, with knowledge of the values of these roles, apply them (Hellriege et al., 1985).

It should be borne in mind that roles are dynamic forces of motivations and play major role in developing personal characters.

Absence of important role playing in management and politics in the society prevent promotion for women and as a result stop them participating in any areas of decision making concerning their life.

Cultural parameters: Absence of women participation in social activities can be attributed to incorrect beliefs with respect to women’s potentials and abilities in Arab societies. These negative views and the presence of fanaticism suggest that women are week, feeble, emotional and have no self confidence and hence unsuitable and incompetence. In the course of time women have consciously accepted these negative claims and exhibited them. From psychological point of view individual behave, react and respond to situations according to other people’s perspective and expectations, they have about the person.

Personal growth, self confidence and her point of view with respect and regard to herself shall only be positive and constructive when she can take part and be involved in social activities. Every society has its values and methodology to carry out its activities and expect its members respond accordingly (Handoussa, 2003).

How does a woman acquire a positive image of herself? Social psychologists believe that the concept of self is learned through a complicated process throughout life by individuals. This concept is a belief that an individual earns within the society and their assistances. Believing in her capabilities, she must have the opportunities to compare herself with others and look upon herself from other people point of views.

Descriptive results: In this survey the number of people answered the questionnaire (statistical population) were 331. The population level of education distribution was as Table 1.

The mean of age of the population was 35 and the age range was 18-62. The mean of years of employment in the population was 13, with range of 1-34. The marital status of the population was as Married, 76.7, single, 19.6 and Divorced, 4.

Inference of the results: As mentioned previously, the view point of women regarding their participation in social development issues in the society were depicted in five dependent variables namely socio-cultural, personal, family, legal and educational. According to Likrat methodology, the value given to each category the Strongly agreed was 5, agreed was 4, indifferent was 3, disagreed was 2 and strongly agreed was 1.

Questions the view point of women regarding their participation: The results show that the highest mean belongs to legal question followed by family and education with lowest figure representing personal matter questions. The Analysis of question was as in Table 2.

Relationship between dependent and independent variables: Is there any meaningful relationship between women view points with regards to their participation in social activities and their level of education? As it can be seen from the Table 3. The results obtained here confirm absence of any relationship. Despite the fact that the mean value of the population with no diploma is the lowest and that of the Ph.D holders the highest, the difference between the six means, according to analysis of variance with the F value of 1.93 and 95% level (p = 0.80) is significance and therefore it is possible to say that they are all equal. In other words women with low level of academic education and ones with the highest education level share the same opinions with respect to their participation in social activities.

Table 1: The population level of education distribution

Table 2: Analysis of questions the view point of women regarding their participation

Table 3: Mean difference in women view points in participation in social conducts with respect to their level of education

Table 4: Mean differences versus marital status

Table 3 shows the mean difference in women view points in participation in social conducts with respect to their level of education.

The next part of the survey was to address the marital status of women and their social activities. Table 4 shows that there is no significant relationship in the statistical data. This means, according to the analysis of variance, the hypothesis does not work. The mean of value for single women is 179.64 which is the highest figure and the lowest value belongs to women married again (171.66). The observed difference in means, according to the analysis of variance (skewed distribution) with F = 0.588 and p = 0.69 has no significance. In other words, the population is not the same.

The next part of the survey was to determine the relation between the field of education of the sample population and their participation in social activities. Test of the hypothesis prove that there is a direct connection between the field of education and the participation of women social works. The mean average for women studied theology (175.8) is considerably less than that of women studied nursing (184.35). The observed means among the other seven variables with F value of 3.37 and at above 95% level (p = 0.002) is significant. The trend is found to be the same in the filed of medicine when it is compared with theology.

The next question in the survey was related to the women participation in the society and their age. The mean values for women in their 45 and above is more than those at lesser age groups. There is, however, no significant. There is, however, no significant difference among the population.

Table 6 shows the mean difference in age of women and their social participation in the society.

Table 7 shows some inter relationship or correlation between some of the independent variables with regards to women view points in the elements of their participation in social developments.

Table 5: Mean difference versus field of education

Table 6: Mean difference in age of women and their social participation in the society

Table 7: Correlation between independent variables
*Correlation at significant level of 0.05

According to the hypothesis two elements of age and years of employment have meaningful relationship with women view point regarding their participation in social development in the society. There is no significant correlation between family perception point of views versus age and years of employment. Similarly, there is no correlation between age and years of employment versus education and personal perception point of views. There is, however, a week correlation between age and years of employment versus socio-cultural and legal view point of women with respect to their participation in social development in the society. Here the Pearson correlation value and significant level are 0.16 and 0.99 (99%), respectively.

View point relationship with research variables: The analysis of skewed variances (AVONA), regarding the variables under study (age, level of education and marital status) versus observed variable, showed that, except for the field of education, when F = 3.37 and the level of significant, p = 0.002, there was no correlation between the theoretical expectation and the observed ones. In other words, based on the given population, women view points with respect to their participation in social development activities, have no correlation with variables under the study except for the education element.

Closer statistical analysis of the different observing variables (individual rights, personal social rights, educational rights and socio-cultural rights) and the independent variables have shown that, when p = 0.004, F = 3.53, there is a correlation between the level of education and legal point of views of women. It appears that women education levels have greater influence on their perception regarding legal aspect of participation. Analysis of variance (skewed) of field of education for women with respect to individual and socio-cultural and legal view point have a positive correlation. F-value, when p = 0.003 and p = 0.001, is significant. It is, therefore, possible to predict that field of education for women can be assured as the element influencing their participation in social development projects with respect to individual and socio-cultural view points. When we look at the results of the analysis of variance of age and years of work experiences, versus social development participation, we find that family perception versus years of employment for women have no correlation. Similar situation is true when we consider education and personal perception against age and years of employment. There is, however, a week correlation between women socio- cultural perception and their participation in social development in the society (Pearson correlation at p = 0.16 and significance greater than 99%). It appears that women perception are greatly influenced by structural element in the society and thus variable like age years of employment level of education have no significant correlation.

CONCLUSIONS

In the analysis and interpretation of mental perception, what manifest the most is that people’s perceptions are mental or conceptual epiphany or discernment. The truth, however, is that although perception emanate from human personality and necessity, it is the reflection of beliefs and convictions from the society which the person belongs to. Eric Freom believes that basis on which the fabric of a family is constructed can form, shape and influence the person’s responses to the political movements.

Perception of women with regard to her status and circumstances in the society arises from roles and responsibilities she acquires in her life span. Roles (and function) are considered to be the dynamic motivating power of behavior which has an influential share in the way individuals react and respond to social stimuli. Roles and the acceptance of them gives sense and definition and therefore accepts and performs them.

Women perception of participating in social issues in the society arises from the roles, responsibilities that the society bestows upon and expectation it has from them. Every society has its values, manners and methods, activities and experiences and accordingly it has expectation and it demands responses from its members. Individuals learn their roles and responsibilities and become aware of the expectation and respond accordingly. A Person’s capability and worthiness form from other people’s reflections and behaviors. Like a mirror presenting image of an object, reflection of people’s behavior form image of the society.

Women perception about participating in social issues in the society can form from sociability, education, work experience, age, labour laws and so on. Women view points about social issues can considered from different perspective angles.

The study out come shows that elements encourage women participate in social activities and issues pertaining their welfare or preventing them to take part in many different arenas pertaining their interests are considerable and need further research and study.

Elements promoting women participating in social issues in order of importances: Individual perspective includes self confidence and self belief; determination and perseverance; having definite aim and goals; having organized plan of action and prioritize objectives; having strong will powers and spirit. Having high level of education. Family perspective includes spouse full support; spouse awareness of issues; acceptance of domestic work by the family so that women can participate in their social activities. As the social perspective, Presence of facilities at work, for example nursery school and hygiene centers; improving equal right opportunity and meritocracy for women; presence of women in higher echelon in management, persuade men to accept women participating in the society development issues.

Element preventing and prohibiting women participating in social issues: Gender discrimination at work; gender pay and benefit discrimination for the same job and responsibility; presence of legal and lawful right discrimination which prohibit women participating in social issues for women (Legal issues).

People perspective and reflection and thought on participating in social issues in the society; domination of ma power culturally and in government where women are considered as an object at the disposal of men and children; despite women being educated and becoming economically independent, their participation in social issues in the society has not come to full fruition. This is a universal patriarchal problem that still exists and practiced in many places (Cultural perspective).

Women have two separate responsibilities, at home and at work. Absence of women in social decision making due to social and cultural restrains to which would inevitably cause damage for women and the society; identity crisis; loss of self confident; becoming isolated; helplessness and frustration; these are all consequential complications that will affect absence of women participating in developing social issues. It is conceivable that changes taking place in short terms are impossible and they perhaps require long term planning, but as the expert claim if social relationships are all based on patriarchy, presence of man managing order in the society would influence the power and responsibilities share in his favour and this in turn would aggravate the social and political chasm that exists between the two genders (Personal or individual participation perspective).

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We should like to take the opportunity and express our gratitude and appreciation to all the people, who gracefully helped us to complete this study. In particular, we would like to thank Mr Ali Katani, Reza Mahhali and Mohammad Zakermoshfegh. We do hope this study will pave the way for women throughout the world to improve their socio-politico-economical situation.

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