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Through the Eye of the Needle: Lessons in Women’s Empowerment and Public Policy from the Arab Gulf

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submitted on 2024-02-15, 05:24 and posted on 2024-02-15, 05:25 authored by Melissa Langworthy, Rabia Naguib

In this chapter, we challenge the dominant perspective that views the ‘universalization’ of the international agenda on women’s empowerment as the only way for states to both promote women’s rights and be seen as a legitimate modern state. Our study provides a comparative analysis of public policies and gender data from the six Arab Gulf nations (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE) to examine the situation of women’s empowerment in the Arab Gulf region. We argue that the persistence of neoliberal capitalist frameworks and Western-defined human rights strategies has perpetuated orientalist discourses that contrast Arab cultures with Western ones. We assert that the international women’s agenda, by emphasizing neoliberal ideals, overlooks and devalues contexts where progress is not measured in individual terms, but rather requires prioritizing the family and household in women’s economic pursuits. Through this lens, we present Arab Gulf policy frameworks as important and effective strategies that prioritize the provision of care, support for work-life reconciliation, and the freedom to pursue progress for women who have different life goals beyond the neoliberal framework.

Other Information

Published in: Women's Empowerment and Public Policy in the Arab Gulf States : Exploring Challenges and Opportunities
See chapter on publisher's website:



  • English


Springer Singapore

Publication Year

  • 2023

License statement

Copyright © The Editors and The Authors 2023. This Item is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Institution affiliated with

  • Doha Institute for Graduate Studies
  • School Of Economics Administration and Public Policy - DI

Geographic coverage

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

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