Women at work
March 08 2013 12:00 AM
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Auditor Farzana Ahmed feels that the work culture in Qatar is very healthy and diverse, more so for women.

By Sakshi Vashist

It is that time of the year again when women all around the world are appreciated for their being — International Women’s Day. Over the past 103 years, March 8 is celebrated in respect, love and appreciation of women around the world for their social, economic and political achievements.
When over a century ago most women were confined to household chores, their roles were just limited to being a caring mother, a doting sister or a loyal wife.  Things have changed drastically since then.
Women have ventured out of their traditional roles and spheres and are contributing equally as breadwinners and decision-makers in various professions.
Women have consistently outdone themselves by stepping into male-dominated areas. They have worked on par with men, proving their worth, stamina and courage. In many societies, the word ‘career’, which was once taboo for women, has become an acceptable life option.
An auditor with E A Accounting & Auditing in Doha, Farzana Ahmed confides, “The work culture here is very healthy and diverse. Men are not threatened by women entering their field or snatching their jobs. They actually treat you with a lot of respect, like royalty.”
In fact, men today are more supportive and concerned about their better-halves going to office than the men of previous generations. They worry about the safety and work environment issues for women too. Due credit of this positive attitude goes to the family upbringing and society they live in. Nimal Kunnath Aven, a site engineer for Bechtel Corporation gives an example, “Even in an engineering firm like ours, women constitute around 15% of the total staff. And it should be increasing in the coming years. Today, men and women are alike, they can do the same job equally well. As long as the desired intellectual skills are met, women can be accommodated in any sector. Work ethics are maintained strictly by all firms, there is no need to worry about safety of women.”
But do companies in Qatar prefer only experienced professionals or they accept a newbie too?
An assistant financial analyst, who started working in December 2012 clarifies, “Women are given a privilege everywhere in this country, including the job front. That is the best part of working here, other than the tax-free income. Work environment is very safe here, and women can work better when they are tension-free”.
The financial analyst, who requested anonymity, acquired her academic qualifications from Toronto, Canada and still chose to work in Qatar. “Education is the stepping stone to one’s career, it is the single most important element,” she adds.
Taking inspiration from Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, many families in Qatar have started supporting the females in and around them to follow their dreams — study and work. Sheikha Moza has been the driving force behind Education City. Named as one of Forbes’ 100 most powerful women, she truly is an epitome of perceptive, thoughtful and resolute womanhood in Qatar.
Under the guidance of such a strong personality, Qatar Foundation has been encouraging women to enhance their educational qualifications with graduate programmes in fine arts, medical, engineering, journalism and communication. So while elite women contribute to the economic growth of this nation by encouraging education, the middle class works towards job generation for the youth.
The country also provides global opportunities for those who dream big. Indeed, citizens of Qatar are taking a leap to change the status of women globally. Companies too, are becoming sensitive of their social image and responsibility in bringing women in the forefront of the business world.
Women, nationals and expatriates, have found employment with the government as well as the private sectors in Qatar. Remarks Shaily Agarwal, a young expatriate working with the government, “There are many options for working women today, although there is still a necessity of recognising ambitious women on a global front.”
Like her, many other women have left their countries and come to Qatar in the hope of improving the social and economic status of their families back home. Of course, it is a tough decision to stay apart from loved ones, but many expatriates have resorted to overseas jobs to secure a better future.
Today married-yet-living-single women can be found in all fields — working on the cash-counters in supermarkets, giving lectures in universities or maintaining hygiene of schools in Qatar and other countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC).
Thanks to excellent telecommunication networks, the women working here alone can stay connected to their families miles away. It is the sheer support and love of family which lifts the spirits of a working woman.
This multi-tasking professional woman could even amaze Superman. She is an efficient manager at office and tolerant mom at home. She can be an audacious boss and a tender wife. She is present at board meetings and also at parent-teacher meetings. She can be an expert in culinary skills and also be strategic problem solver. She is a patient listener and an articulate speaker. She knows when to lend a crying shoulder and when to raise her voice for a cause.
Multi-tasking comes naturally to women. Still, like Shaily says, “juggling work, social life and family is a struggle every single day.”
So does it take a toll on their health? “No! Of course not. With best possible medical care and availability of a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, Qatar offers the best living standard possible,” elaborates Farzana.
And now, with the exposure and infiltration of social media into our society, women have found a modern way to “hang-out” and share each other’s experiences and grievances.
Not long ago, Qatar Professional Women’s Network (QPWN), an informal networking group for Qatari and expatriate professional women was launched in Doha. The mission of QPWN is to support women’s advancement and development and contribute to the sustainability of the local community by helping its members expand their networks, refine their professional capabilities and benefit from cross-cultural sharing.
A home to women of all colours, caste and creed, Qatar truly celebrates the unity in diversity of these exceptional women. Brave at heart, the women of and in this country have time and again proven to be insightful, intriguing and astute at what they do.



History


International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialised world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.
 
1908
Great unrest and critical debate was occurring amongst women. Women’s oppression and inequality was spurring them to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. Then in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.
 
1909
In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman’s Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on February 28. Women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913.
 
1910
In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named a Clara Zetkin (Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day — a Women’s Day — to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was the result.
 
1911
Following the decision agreed at Copenhagen in 1911, International Women’s Day (IWD) was honoured the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March. More than 1mn women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. However less than a week later on March 25, the tragic ‘Triangle Fire’ in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This disastrous event drew significant attention to working conditions and labour legislation in the United States that became a focus of subsequent International Women’s Day events. 1911 also saw women’s ‘Bread and Roses’ campaign.
 
1913-1914
On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. In 1913 following discussions, International Women’s Day was transferred to March 8 and this day has remained the global date for International Women’s Day ever since. In 1914 more women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the war and to express women’s solidarity.
 
1917
On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for “bread and peace” in response to the death over 2mn Russian soldiers in war. Opposed by political leaders the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. The date the women’s strike commenced was February 23 on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was March 8.
 
1918-1999
Since its birth in the socialist movement, International Women’s Day has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across developed and developing countries alike. For decades, IWD has grown from strength to strength annually. For many years the United Nations has held an annual IWD conference to co-ordinate international efforts for women’s rights and participation in social, political and economic processes. 1975 was designated as ‘International Women’s Year’ by the United Nations. Women’s organisations and governments around the world have also observed IWD annually on March 8 by holding large-scale events that honour women’s advancement and while diligently reminding of the continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women’s equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life.
 
2000 and beyond
IWD is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends and colleagues, with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
— Courtesy www.internationalwomensday.com

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