Student promotes equal opportunity, political representation for Kuwaiti women

This article is part of our Summer Sojourns 2012 series highlighting summer adventures of FIU students.

Ph.D. candidate Shahed Jasem Al-Tammar is on a mission to empower Kuwaiti women through democracy.

The public administration student recently presented at the 2013 Joint Congress of the International Institute of Administrative Sciences (IIAS)-International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration (IASIA) in Bahrain. Al-Tammar’s presentation prescribed recommendations on how to counteract the current obstacles women face, including recommendations for equal opportunity in the workplace and increased political representation.

“Ever since Kuwaiti women obtained the right to vote in 2006, they have started to enter the public sector, own more companies and take on more influential roles in society,” Al-Tammar said. “Kuwaiti women have a lot of potential. They’re highly educated and have the passion to play an active role in society. But they need the guidance and empowerment to do so successfully.”

Al-Tammar (left), Salwa (center) and Newman (right) pose in Kuwait City.

Al-Tammar, Salwa and Newman met up in Kuwait City this summer after the Joint Congress of the International Institute of Administrative Sciences and International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration.

The presentation was based on a joint research project that evaluates women’s experience in Kuwait in their administrative lives and how their roles have evolved over time. The research was conducted with College of Arts & Sciences Senior Associate Dean and Public Administration Professor Meredith Newman and Al-Jassar Salwa, a member of the National Assembly of Kuwait who also happens to be Al-Tammar’s mother.

“Shahed is a wonderful ambassador of our Ph.D. in Public Affairs program. She brings a unique perspective on the role of women in governmental and administrative reform in the Middle East,” said Newman, who also attended the conference in Bahrain. “Those of us who have the opportunity to participate with our students as they present at high-profile conferences, and to visit their home countries to conduct research together, are truly privileged. It is one thing to watch our students perform in the classroom, it is another experience entirely to see them thrive and excel in such a high profile gathering.”

A native of Kuwait, Al-Tammar was exposed to public service at a young age. Her mother worked in the education, political and youth sectors of the Kuwaiti government. In 2009, just three years after women earned the right to vote, Al-Tammar’s mother was one of the first women elected to parliament. Al-Tammar’s father was involved in political movements and is currently serving the special needs of the Kuwaiti disabled population.

Al-Tammar earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from The American University of Kuwait. As an undergraduate, she worked as a youth representative advocating for the need of youth involvement in the public sector. Al-Tammar also was involved in a variety of networking and advocacy roles in different political campaigns.

“There wasn’t one particular moment or incident that sparked my desire to pursue a career in public administration,” Al-Tammar said. “My parents are influential figures in our country, and I grew up understanding the importance of participating in the political process. Serving as a youth representative also showed me how many of the challenges we face can be resolved through education and active involvement.”

Al-Tammar first came to the U.S. in 2009 to work at an investment advisory firm in New York. She also served as a fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) alongside political science and engineering faculty on public sector reform in Kuwait. Al-Tammar earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012. As a graduate student, she served in a variety of academic and professional roles in the U.S., Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, and the Republic of Georgia.

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