OUTLOOK — By Ali Al Matani — Efforts undertaken by many government agencies and private entities to increase the participation of Omani women in economic activity in the Sultanate are many. The establishing of businesswomen forums by Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) is an embodiment of the directions for the advancement of the participation of Omani Women in economic activity to match the economic openness, social development and the growing importance of Omani women’s participation in different entrepreneurships. So, it is very important to support these efforts done by various government and private agencies to contribute to raising the role of Omani women in economic activity in our country. There is a need to establish clear visions that takes into consideration the removal of social, ideological and economic obstacles that hinder the participation of more Omani women in business.
There is no doubt that increasing the participation of Omani women in economic activity gains more importance on many levels and fronts that aim to support the government efforts which aim to empower Omani women in government and private work fields. This gives them a leading role in some fields that have been referred to as stigmatised in some local, regional and global forums.
This leading role has now become a reality that highlights an honourable image of Omani women. But, these efforts should be sustained by enhancing the role played by the Omani women in economic activity in the Sultanate, for many reasons and considerations that are becoming more and more important.
The number of commercial enterprises owned by women in the Sultanate is about 15,000 out of more than 200,000. This represents less than 10 per cent participation. It is too low comparing to the neighbouring Gulf countries. But we can’t depend on this percentage only to evaluate the participation of women in economic activity. Most of these commercial enterprises are owned by women on paper only; the real beneficiaries are males. The bottom line is activating the participation of Omani women in self- employment projects that are operated and managed completely by women. There are a lot of obstacles and hardships facing these kinds of projects. We should overcome these obstacles by drafting many new initiatives, encouraging women to establish their business and creating special initiatives for young women to step into the worlds of industry, agriculture and tourism.
Encouraging women to have their own business is not merely for achieving records or to help women gain the experiences, knowledge, skills and connections networks. All these experiences and skills deepen the awareness and open new horizons for women. The participation of Omani women in the economic activity increases the contribution of women to the national economy; these contributions reflect in an index that measures the development of nations. The participation of Omani women in the economic activity is an investment of the energies of the society in useful aspects that contribute to the progress and luxury of the Omani women. This in turn will contribute to the efforts done by women to sustain and support themselves.
Every new opportunity the Omani women take will reduce the burden on the shoulders of government. There are many provisions in place that support the establishment of enterprises by women. The government has taken steps in this direction by supplying women with more tools by which they can remove all obstacles in front of them while they are stepping into an economic world of their own.
We are hoping that the businesswomen forums are the early fruits of continued efforts that aim to increase the participation of Omani women in economic activity, and a start for moving the stagnant water. Omani businesswomen can be a great encouragement and a school for building new generations that are working for the future. This is what our country needs in the next stage.