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Abstract

Despite commitments by the Arabian Gulf countries to promote gender equality and policies of nondiscrimination against women, the underrepresentation of women in the political sphere remains unchanged. Using the case of the Sultanate of Oman, this paper endeavors to analyze the reasons behind the persistent political disempowerment of women in the Middle East and North African region through the lens of public opinion. The findings are based on 288 surveys conducted with two groups of participants – a group of undergraduate and postgraduate students majoring in political science, and a group of Omani citizens with no political education. These findings confirm the impact of both formal (government driven) and informal (socio-cultural) factors resulting in the low level of political empowerment of Omani women. By exploring public opinion formed towards women’s political empowerment in the country, it was observed that respondents who majored in political science demonstrated a lower degree of gender bias compared to citizens with no education in political science. Socio-demographic variables such as the age and level of education of both groups did not show any significant impact on either reducing or increasing gender bias. However, a positive correlation between gender and citizens’ opinions was observed. While politically educated respondents, regardless of their gender, maintained a positive attitude towards women and their participation in politics, male respondents from the general public group exhibited elevated levels of bias against the need for women’s political empowerment. The study shows that gender bias is neutralized when mediated by the variable of political awareness. The findings also suggest that an increase in the level of political awareness among citizens might be considered as a positive intervention needed for changing public opinion in favour of the political empowerment of women.

Note on the Author

Victoria Dauletova, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the Department of Business Communication, Sultan Qaboos University. Her main areas of expertise are political discourse analysis and institutional and gender communication. She has published articles on communicative strategies in political brand making as well as institutional discourse communication practices. Her research includes studies in Oman and Russia. College of Economics and Political Science, Sultan Qaboos University, P.O. Box 50 Al-Khoud 123, Oman. Email: vicky@squ.edu.om ORCID ID: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9408-4908. ; Houchang Hassan Yari, Ph.D. is a Professor and Head of the Department of Political Science, Sultan Qaboos University and Professor Emeritus, the Royal Military College of Canada. His research focuses on Middle Eastern issues, including security in the Persian Gulf region. He also has more than 15,000 interviews with national and international media (TV, Radio, newspapers, online) analyzing the news. College of Economics and Political Science, Sultan Qaboos University, P.O. Box 20 Al-Khoud 123, Oman. Email: houchang@squ.edu.om. ; Zainab Hussain, MA. is a former lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Sultan Qaboos University. She has co-authored several articles and is currently weighing her options to commence her doctoral studies on issues related to gender and political participation in the Arab-Islamic world. Email: zainabmohmmed38@gmail.com.

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