Empowered Women, Empower Women.

Women in Kuwait are ready to take back their power and Dr. AlAnoud AlSharekh is leading them to the political corridors they may one day occupy, writes Zahra Husain.

An award winning human rights activist, an active voice on gender equality, a warrior for women’s empowerment movements and one of the founders of the Abolish 153, Dr. AlSharekh has now taken on the role of a mentor, helping Kuwaiti women with political ambitions acquire the skills and know-how they need to run for important offices in the country. From Co-ops, municipality, and NGOs, to Boards of Chamber of Commerce, and even the National Assembly.

Empowering Kuwaiti Women in Politics (EKWIP), is a program supported by Dr. AlSharekh’s Ibtkar Strategic Consultancy, a company that works towards helping people fulfil their political ambitions. “There is real push for women in Kuwait to come ahead and take leadership positions. Through the New Kuwait 2035 program, the government itself is pushing for women’s empowerment. So when the opportunity arose, it only seemed natural for me to rise up to the challenge, and run a program that will help women in acquiring key decision making positions in the country. The time for a change is here, and the women of Kuwait are more than ready,” said Dr. AlSharekh, shedding light on the program.

When it comes to gender equality and women’s empowerment in Kuwait, in Dr. AlSharekh’s opinion the biggest challenge is that there aren’t enough women in power positions. And even though there are men in public offices who are supportive of the cause, they don’t necessarily understand what it is like to be in a women’s shoes. Therefore, the best way to empower women, is through empowered women.

Through an exhaustive selection process, 15 women from the initial 70 applicants have been chosen for the pilot edition of the EKWIP program. The program, which will run for nine-months, will see these women going through rigorous training on subjects including public speaking, campaigning, logistics, and media interactions to name a few. The training will also include a two-week module in the United States where candidates will meet women leaders making their voices heard on the international podium. “We want the candidates to get exposure to what it is like to be on an international stage. The challenges those women have gone through to get themselves seen and heard I think will really inspire our candidates. The women leaders we want to create through this program should be of international caliber. When it comes to our ambitions with regards to our candidates, we are reaching for the sky,” emphasized Dr. AlSharekh.

With ages ranging between early 20s to late 50s, the two things all the candidates have in common are, one – political ambition, two – commitment. “Nine months is a long time, and even so, it is only the beginning. Once the candidates complete the training, we at Ibtikar will start working on a strategic roadmap for them to be able to reach the officesthey aspire to be in. Ideally we want our 15 candidates to reach 15 offices, and mentor 15 more women, who will then pay it forward to 15 more and on and on we go, until we reach a point where women can make themselves heard. Where we can drive real change on the policy-making level. No more just mere spectators but the makers of our own destiny and of the daughters to come after us.”

In a country where, thus far, politics has been a man’s playground, Dr. AlSharekh, is trying to level the playing field. The fact is that there is strength in numbers, and the numbers of Kuwaiti women who want to bring about a real and quantifiable change in their society is on the rise.