It was during this time that the Supreme Council for Women (SCW) was established as an official body to promote women’s rights. The Bahrain Women’s Union (BWU) also came into being in these years, comprising all the associations active in the field of women’s rights.

Nadia Al Maskati, president of the Bahrain Young Ladies Association, explains: "Since 1975, Bahrain has benefitted from the Beijing Platform for Action and from the resulting platforms. Women’s activism became more organised, and strategies were built accordingly. Moreover, signing up to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has helped consolidate our demands, alongside the diligent efforts of the Bahrain Women’s Union. The BWU prepared the ‘Ahli’ Shadow Report in order to gauge the real needs, instead of simply glossing over the facts for the sake of the international community."


Meanwhile in Kuwait, young girls began attending school in the 1940s. The country saw its first campaign for women’s rights in the early 1960s at the hands of Kuwaiti women who were influenced by the wider Arab feminist movement. They demanded the establishment of the Kuwaiti Women’s Club in order to galvanise efforts to empower women and to build a supportive legal framework.

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Alas, their demands were rejected by society and by the authorities, both of whom thought the idea ahead of its time. Accordingly, the group modified their demands, and instead they sought the establishment of the Women’s Cultural and Social Society (WCSS). Comprising the merchant class and the bourgeoisie, the Society was launched in 1963 and concentrated on charitable initiatives and on support for Arab causes.

A few days earlier, another association was founded with the title of the Arab Women’s Development Society. It later changed its name to the Family Development Society (FDS) in 1971, in response to the decline in Arab nationalist fervour. FDS represented middle class women whose main concerns revolved around education, divorce and polygamy.

In 1974, the Kuwait Women’s Union was formed, as a merger of WCSS and FDS. The Al-Fataat Girls Sports Club was also set up around the same time. The merger had the effect of precipitating the splintering of these agencies, however. WCSS withdrew and FDS was dissolved. And in 1977, the Kuwait Women’s Union was closed down by the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Over the course of the next decade, with the spread of Islamism, two new associations appeared: Bayader Al Salam Society and the Islamic Care Society. The Kuwaiti Women’s Voluntary Society for Community Service was established in 1991 during the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion.
In 1994, the Kuwait Women’s Union was resurrected with governmental support and under the presidency of the wife of the Crown Prince. KWU brought together all the various women’s organisations under its aegis, despite the fact that its role was limited to representation overseas and liaison between member groups.
Kuwaiti writer and activist Fajer Al Khalifa explains: "In the early days, feminist activism was restricted to certain social classes, in particular the bourgeoisie. As a result, such activism was centred on the concerns and needs of this class. This in no way belittles what they achieved. Fatma Husseinʹs burning of the abaya or loose robe was a symbolic act of great importance. Nevertheless, there were many women who remained prisoners within their homes and within their tribes, denied their right to education. In short, the problem of the early women’s associations was their inability to infiltrate the lower classes, or those less fortunate than themselves. For this reason, the best campaigns today for women’s rights are those that are independent and have no connection to the establishments of civil society. "
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