By Santhosh V. Perumal/Business Reporter

With municipal elections round the corner, Qatar has said there is a dire need to promote female representation in the elected national councils as the economic participation of women is low and poses challenge.

“The advocacy of Qatari women’s political participation still poses another challenge which requires the development of a plan to promote female representation in the elected national councils in the next phase,” Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics (MDPS) said in its latest Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

Qatar is to hold parliamentary elections in the near future, and until that time, the proportion of seats held by women in the Central Municipal Council (CMC) will be tentatively assumed as an indicator of the level of the women’s political participation, it said. The CMC elections are to be held next month.

MDPS said the statistical data show a modest percentage of women in the CMC elections, as only one of the four women who ran in Qatar’s quadrennial municipal elections carried her constituency in 2011, (which constitutes 3.4% of the total seats of the council) in a new confirmation of the “formidable” challenges faced by women’s political empowerment programmes.

“This gives us an indication that the level of national representation of women in municipal councils is much lower than in various regions across the world,” the ministry said.

Highlighting that Qatar made a “significant” advancement in achieving gender parity by providing access to education at all levels, it said the country has even made a “remarkable” progress in the field of higher education, where the number of girls has exceeded that of boys.

“Women need to be encouraged to work in non-traditional jobs, such as scientific occupations and art crafts,” the ministry said, adding “even though the parity rate between the two sexes is 1.75, the economic participation of Qatari women in labour market is still low and poses a challenge.”

Qatari women’s political participation is still low despite the fact that many women reach decision-making and leadership positions, which require a plan to increase their representation in elected national councils, MDPS suggested.

Qatar is very close to achieve gender equality in primary school enrolment rates, as the ratio of female to male students rose from 95% in 2006 to 96% in 2013, which gives an indication that the country is on the way to close the gender gap in primary education enrolment.

The same thing could apply to the ratio of female to male in secondary education, despite the decline from the level achieved in 2006, but it came close to equality throughout the 2006-2013.

As for higher education, the proportion of female and male in tertiary enrolment reached 187% between 2007 and 2012, despite the subsequent decline, the ratio remained later at high levels reaching 175% in 2013 and is among the highest globally.

“This can be explained by encouraging female students to obtain a college degree, which allows them to get better job opportunities along with the change in Qatari society’s view of women and their role in economic, social and cultural sphere and the involvement of large numbers of males in the labour market at an early stage as soon as they receive a high school certificate,” according to MDPS.

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