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Cablegate: Bahrain Women's Society - Supporting Women And

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MANAMA 001115

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ARP, NEA/PI, NEA/PPD AND ECA/PE/V/G/N
CAIRO FOR STEVE BONDY
LONDON FOR ETHAN GOLDRICH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KWMN PHUM KMPI OEXC BA
SUBJECT: BAHRAIN WOMEN'S SOCIETY - SUPPORTING WOMEN AND
CHILDREN THROUGHOUT BAHRAINI SOCIETY

REF: A. MANAMA 799
B. MANAMA 312

1. SUMMARY. The Bahrain Women's Society (BWS) has emerged
as a leader among Bahrain's NGOs. Through its highly
successful outreach programs BWS enables women to assume
leading roles in society, and increase social awareness of
issues relating to children, education and the environment.
This group of Shi'a women has developed a strategic plan to
contribute to improving social development. These agents of
change are open to new ideas and welcome any initiatives that
implement democratic reform. On March 3 BWS leaders Drs.
Wajeeha Al Baharna and Soroor Qarooni met with U/S Grossman
(see ref b). END SUMMARY.

-----------------------
BAHRAIN WOMEN'S SOCIETY
-----------------------

2. In 2001, Dr. Wajeeha Sadiq Al Baharna established BWS and
developed a strategic plan to touch different factions of
society with unique and qualitative programs. In three short
years, the BWS has left a clear mark on Bahraini society,
especially for women. BWS's main goals are to enable women
to assume a leading role in society, to achieve social
justice, increase social awareness of issues relating to
child abuse and neglect, consolidate a sense of environmental
citizenship in individuals and society as a whole, and
contribute to the drafting and improvement of laws relating
to social development. PD has close contact with BWS since
its inception. BWS welcomes financial support/grants from
Embassy Manama. BWS funded two board members to take English
at ACEC to increase their level of fluency to engage in
international conferences.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
SUPPORTING ABUSED WOMEN AND CHILDREN - BE FREE PROJECT
--------------------------------------------- ---------

3. Dr. Al Baharna told PolOff on March 13 that the society
has made children a top priority. Its &Be Free8 project
focuses on protecting children from abuse and neglect.
Project Director Dr. Soroor Qarooni solicited the Crown
Prince,s wife Shaikha Hala bint Duaij Al Khalifa's
involvement to launch the project on March 19, 2002. The
project is divided into three phases. The first stage
focuses on educating the child by identifying at-risk
populations, building awareness about dangerous locales,
teaching them how to identify suspects and what to do if
someone attempts to abuse them. The second stage involves
teaching children basic daily practices to strengthen their
character and increase their self-esteem. The final stage is
provision of continual support to victims by studying child
legislation in the Kingdom and inaugurating the first of its
kind in the Middle East - a &Be Free8 center. In
conjunction with the program's final phase, the Society
established a hotline to field domestic abuse calls. In
December 2003, Post provided a small PD grant for NGO
development of BWS board members and volunteers.

--------------------------------------------- -----
EMPOWERING WOMEN - BWS WOMEN'S ADVANCEMENT PROJECT
--------------------------------------------- -----

4. Dr. Baharna told PolFSN on April 16 that empowering women
is a necessity of modern societies. Al Baharna briefed
PolFSN on BWS Women's Advancement Project that attempts to
develop, employ, and invest in human capacity because women
constitute 50 percent of Bahraini society. Project Director
Ibtisam Zaid launched the project in July 2003, laying down
the goals of developing women,s self-esteem and increasing
educational qualifications, awareness of women,s issues,
legal awareness with respect to women's social role,
awareness of the concept of gender roles.

5. BWS achieved its projects goals by holding seminars and
conferences, disseminating a new culture for women through
the society's publications and local press, cooperating with
local governmental and non-governmental institutions to
eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, and
participating in local radio and television shows which
address women,s issues.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
EDUCATIONAL REFORM - ENVIRONMENTAL CITIZENSHIP PROGRAM
--------------------------------------------- ---------

6. Al Baharna told EmbOffs on April 11 that previously she
considered educational reform an impossible task, citing that
the Ministry of Education does not have a mechanism for
parental, teacher or concerned citizen input to the
curriculum. With rising unemployment and recognition that
children are not learning the skills needed to compete in a
future job market, BWS decided to take action and develop the
Environmental Citizenship program. Project Director Saba Al
Asfoor developed an after-school activities program from
children to learn more about the environment and science. By
taking an "after-school" approach, the Ministry of Education
did not object. The program was met with rave reviews from
the teachers, children and parents. BWS was unable to keep
up with demand. Dr. Baharna reported that now the Ministry
of Education has invited BWS to partake in ministerial
meetings on its science curriculum for the upcoming year.
Lending to its credibility, BWS now sits on Bahrain's
National Environmental Commission.

--------------------------------------------- ----
EMPOWERING DISABLED CHILDREN - WHITE HAND PROJECT
--------------------------------------------- ----

7. With the approval of the former Minister of Health Dr.
Faisal Al Mousawi, Project Director Feryal Al Sairafi
established the "White Hand" project in September 2002. Not
only does the project provide academic instruction to
children who suffer from debilitating diseases and are
usually confined to their beds, but it helps discover and
enhance a child's other talents so they can remain active.
BWS implemented this project in the pediatric wards of
Bahrain's hospitals. US Fulbright scholars have volunteered
with White Hand.

-------------------------------------------
INTERNATIONAL VISITOR PROGRAM PARTICIPATION
-------------------------------------------

8. Since 2002 Post nominated four BWS members to participate
in the International Visitors Program (IVP). In June 2002
Dr. Baharna went on the Global Environmental Issues IVP. In
February 2003 Dr. Qarooni participated in the IVP on
Promoting Effective NGO Leadership for Women. Both women
have told PolOff that the opportunity to meet their
counterparts and experience America first-hand was priceless.
Both came home to Bahrain inspired to delve into issues that
appeared daunting in the past. Saba Al Asfoor and Nadia Al
Alawi went on leadership programs. All board members have
told PAO and EmbOffs that they rely on IVP contacts for
advice, support and exchange of new ideas. Dr. Al Baharna now
reaches out to international organizations without
hesitation. Her experience has benefitted BWS greatly.

9. During a May 12 meeting with EmbOFFS, Dr. Al Baharna,
expressed her desire to strengthen cooperation between the
BWS and other women,s societies in the Kingdom. She also
encouraged governmental agencies to embark on this drive that
is in keeping with the King,s reform process and will help
establish a modern and democratic society. At the May 12
meeting EmbOffs introduced Drs. Al Baharna and Qarooni to
President of the Textile Union, Kadija Attiya. They offered
Attiya BWS' support in her campaign to save garment industry
jobs that are held by conservative Shi'a women (see ref a).
Dr. Baharna told PolOff on June 8 that she is planning to
present this issue to the Bahrain Women's Federation so she
can involve as many women organizations as possible to help
Attiya.

10. COMMENT: The Bahrain Women's Society's membership
totals approximately 50-65 women who genuinely care to
improve the conditions of Bahraini women and children.
Although the leadership dresses conservatively and wear
hijabs (head scarves) they are agents of change - extremely
open to new ideas and welcome any initiatives that would
implement real democratic reforms in Bahrain. On March 2003,
Drs. Al Baharna and Qarooni met with U/S Grossman to make
clear that even though human rights conditions have greatly
improved, the GOB still needs to improve its record on
discrimination, poverty and education and start taking NGOs
seriously. (see ref b) Bahrain is fortunate to have the BWS.

---------
BWS Board
---------

President, Dr. Wajeeha Sadiq Baharna
Vice President, Nadia Al Alawi
Board Secretary, Mina Khadhmi
Treasurer, Rana Al Sairafi
Be Free Project, Dr. Soroor Qarooni
Environmental Citizen Project, Saba Al Asfoor
White Hand Project, Feryal Al Sairafi
Women's Advancement Project, Ibtisam Zaid
Media & Public Relations, A,dham Abbas
Board Member, Shereen Asiri
Board Member, Fadheela Hammad
Board Member, Najeeba Sayed Sharaf

------------------------------
BWS INTERNATIONAL AFFILIATIONS
------------------------------

BWS is an active member of several international bodies
including:
The Arab Network of Nongovernmental Organizations, Cairo
Arab Network for Adult Learning and Eradicating Illiteracy,
Cairo
The Arab Environment and Development Network, Cairo
Earth Day Network, New York
Arab Bureau for Guidance with No Limits, Amman
World Association of Non-governmental Organizations,
Washington DC
WILLIAMSON

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