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Volume :3 Issue : 10 1977      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

WOMEN IN RURAL ARAB SOCIETY: OLD ROLES AND NEW IN THE SULTANATE OF OMAN

Auther : Miss S.E. Letts, and Dr. J.S. Birks

        

         Large numbers of men from Oman villages are temporarily employed away from home.  This large-scale absenteeism, together with the increased cash flow resulting from the remittances to the villages, has brought about a rapid and spontaneous evolution in the roles of women.

           Single women, traditionally supported by charity, are increasingly obliged to make efforts to earn their own living because of inflationary pressures and a weakening of customary obligations.  The tasks, which these women undertake to gain an income, vary from the menial to small scale trading, but remain constrained by the narrow range of duties that men consider suited to women in this rural society.

           The lot of married women is also changing.  Within the household they are assuming a new wider role and taking on extra responsibilities in the absence of their migrant labourer husbands.  At the same time the very absence of their men-folk frees the women from many customary duties, increasing their leisure time, as has the introduction of thermos flasks, sewing machines, wheat milling machines and land rovers.  The more flexible routine of these married women is resulting in their becoming increasingly involved in farming, and in expanded leisure activities, such as coffee circles.

           This wider role of women is basically limited by the continuing differential in status between men and women, which will have to be reduced before women are able to assume a full role in public life.  Deliberate efforts made to employ local women, especially in rural areas, as teachers and workers in health facilities, would be of an impact greater than the numbers involved would suggest.

          Although, in local terms, the change in the role of women as a result of movements of migrant labour has been considerable, it is in some respects only temporary, for absentee men, on their return, wish to relegate women to their traditions position.  In the possible event of reduced movements of migrant labour from the rural areas, there is likely to be increased friction between men and women, as the presence of the menfolk reduces the freedom women are enjoying, and impedes their aspirations.  It is important to attempt to persuade men to accept the wider role and improved status of women if their potential contribution to rural development is to be realised.

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