Bahrain celebrates today the Bahraini Women’s Day as a glorious national event launched in 2008 by Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of HM the King and President of the Supreme Council for Women, under the theme “I read, learned, participated” to mark Bahraini women’s partnership in building the nation.
Over the 12 years since its launch, the celebration has gained in significance and glamor as Bahraini women have entered new important areas with boldness and courage. They have competently and deservedly served their families and country and helped, alongside men, promote national prosperity and development within a civilized Bahraini society in which the standards of competitiveness, sustainability and balance are strengthened among genders.
Under HRH Princess Sabeeka’s initiative, the theme of Bahraini Women’s Day 2020 was devoted to celebrating women in diplomacy. She drew up a clear action plan for the Supreme Council for Women to shed light on the progress of women in diplomatic action by clarifying the dimensions and effects of their participation and contributions on enriching the field and enhancing Bahrain’s international standing.
Despite the exceptional circumstances imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic on Bahrain and the world, the Supreme Council for Women has worked hard to celebrate in a manner that befits the achievements, progress and dedication of Bahraini women while taking all precautionary measures.
The Council has organized throughout the year many events that included meetings and focus groups and in cooperation with partners, in particular the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa Academy for Diplomatic Studies. Several Bahraini diplomatic missions abroad also organized similar events.
The story of diplomacy in Bahrain as a sovereign country started in September 1971, when the flag of the country was hoisted at the headquarters of the United Nations for the first time, marking Bahrain’s joining formally the United Nations as a full member state.
Since then, Bahrain worked successfully on strengthening and expanding its network of diplomatic relations and consolidating its presence internationally.
Bahraini women were not late in catching up with the progress in the diplomatic field as they joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1972. A Bahraini woman was appointed as advisor in the Permanent Mission to the United Nations in 1988, as third secretary in the Department of Arab Affairs in 1991 and as second secretary in the Department of the Gulf Cooperation Council in 1992.
Soon after he assumed power in 1999, HM King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa accorded special attention to Bahraini women.
In 2001, he appointed the first woman ambassador to France and non-resident ambassador to Belgium, Switzerland, Spain and permanent delegate to UNESCO.
The first female plenipotentiary minister was appointed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2001 and the first woman member of the Advisory Board of the Supreme Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council was appointed in 2003.
In 2006, a Bahraini woman was nominated as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, becoming the first Arab and Muslim woman to hold this high-level position.
A year later, the second woman ambassador in Bahrain’s history was appointed in China and a woman was appointed as the Chargé d’Affaires of the Bahraini embassy in Kuwait with the rank of advisor.
In 2008, a third Bahraini woman was appointed ambassador to the US and three years later, a fourth ambassador was appointed to the United Kingdom.
In 2011, a Bahraini woman was appointed as assistant undersecretary for Arab, Afro-Asian affairs and organizations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before she became in 2017 the undersecretary of the ministry in a precedent in the Arab world.
In 2012, a Bahraini woman was appointed as the director of the Department of Americas Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and two years later, another Bahraini woman was appointed to head the European affairs at the ministry.
In 2015, the fifth woman ambassador was appointed to Belgium, Luxembourg and Denmark and as Representative of Bahrain in the European Union and NATO.
In 2016, an executive director was appointed at the Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Academy for Diplomatic Studies with the rank of Assistant Undersecretary, and in 2017, four more women were appointed as directors at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In 2019, a Bahraini woman was appointed as Chargé d’Affaires at the Bahrain embassy in Malaysia.
Figures and statistics confirm that Bahraini women are gradually achieving qualitative gains in diplomacy with the percentage of female ambassadors increasing from 10% in 2016 to 15% in 2020, and the percentage of Bahraini women holding diplomatic positions increased from 25% in 2016 to 32% in 2020.
The percentage of women out of the total number of Bahrainis in leadership positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reached 29% in 2019, while the percentage of female members of the Mohammed bin Mubarak Academy for Diplomatic Studies reached 64% of the total number in 2018.