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U.S. women military leaders, Kuwaiti women empower each other during Women’s Peace and Security Diwaniya

  • Published
  • By Capt. Melissa Heintz
  • 386 AEW Public Affairs

No matter what country they come from or how they were raised, women across the world face similar issues when it comes to how society views them. Whether it’s in the workplace, in academia or in their own homes, women face social, cultural and economic barriers to equality.

U.S. Air Force women deployed to Ali Al Salem Air Base and U.S. Army women deployed to Camp Arifjan and Camp Buehring met with Kuwaiti women at a Women’s Peace and Security Diwaniya June 21, 2022, where they shared opinions and perspectives to build an allyship and empower women on both sides.

Diwaniyas have been integral to Kuwait’s social, political and business life and have been important to the development of the country. Diwaniyas are a place to network, where people from different facets of society gather to discuss topics of interest, form alliances, close business deals or introduce people to associates. Historically, Diwaniyas have consisted of only men, but now have evolved into mixed gender, or even women only

“In a country like Kuwait, it's very small and interconnected,” said Rania Azmi, Ph.D., Founder of Alexandrite Decisions and President of Fadia Cancer Association. “And there are Diwaniyas, which is a forum mostly for men, and it depends on the family. Different families invite other families to talk about anything, but it's not only politics or economy or social, or even sports. So every single thing that's happening in the world can be discussed.”

Azmi, who also serves as the vice president for professional development for the European Region, Association of the United States Army, had participated in women’s Diwaniyas with military service members in the past, but the pandemic put gatherings on hold. When restrictions were lifted, Azmi linked up with U.S. Army Lt. Col. Nadia Moss, commander of the Base Support Battalion, Area Support Group-Kuwait, to restart the women’s empowerment Diwaniyas.

“I have done a series of events, women empowerment or just diversity equity and inclusion, since I've been with the base commander at Camp Buehring. And someone brought to me the idea of doing a women's Diwaniya and I said, ‘Why not?’ I thought it would be a good addition to what we've already been doing,” said Moss.

“And based on that, the idea came. ‘How [can we] give similar exposure to women who serve in the Army or in the Air Force to get exposed to the culture [and get] real time, first hand experience,’” said Azmi.

Building and strengthening partnerships with joint services, coalition forces, regional partners and the host nation is one of the priorities of the 9th Air Force (U.S. Air Forces Central Command). Forging resolute partnerships helps strengthen and promote regional security and stability in the Middle East. According to the United States Institute of Peace, the Women, Peace and Security policy framework recognizes the role of women as critical participants in efforts to achieve sustainable international peace and security. It also promotes women’s equal and meaningful participation in peace processes, peacebuilding and security.

“Part of our mission here is to develop relationships with the home country, and ensure that they have trust in the U.S. military and in the mission and the support that we provide here,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Ana Ruiz, executive officer, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing. “As military women, we're in a male dominated world and I think we have a lot to learn from Kuwaiti women who also do incredible things and in many cases work in male dominated career fields. So it's building partnerships with the local nationals.”

The event was centered around the Chatham House Rule, where women could share information without retribution, which was designed to increase the openness of the discussion. After sharing experiences on how they navigated through society as women, many found that there were more similarities than differences between the United States and Arab cultures.

“One of the similarities I saw was when women decided to start families, and a lot of these Kuwaiti women have many children, they face a lot of the same discriminatory questions in interviews for jobs or certain opportunities. They’re working on getting rid of that [way of thinking] so that women who have families can thrive in career fields that are often dominated by men,” said Ruiz.

“We realized it [doesn’t] matter what your culture is, your background or experiences, we can all connect somehow and that the struggles are the same no matter where you come from,” said Moss. “And just being able to share those struggles, I think empowers you and gives you examples of people who have made it through those struggles, and might give you just a little bit more motivation to continue.”

The goal for the Diwaniya was to make the initial connection and carry out this event on a quarterly basis. What was initially designed to be a small event with a few women sharing their ideas over coffee, turned into an event with more than 30 women leaders inspiring each other. Many participants left the event feeling a sense of community, with the hope of continuing the conversation in follow-up events.

“It actually inspired me. When you go to certain events you feel re-blued and you feel more motivated. After going to that I feel very inspired to push in my career, almost as a sense of duty to women to continue to have that representation for younger women and younger generations,” said Ruiz. “You could just see in the Kuwaiti women, they're influencing their daughters and sisters and young women in the community, to pursue higher education and do great things for the community. So for me, if I was [questioning] whether to leave the Air Force now, maybe I may stick it out a little longer because that representation really matters.”

“Meeting and having forums like this really empowers you in action. [You get to] see physical examples, real examples, in real time. You're not alone in these challenges, there is another sister and other counterpart over there, and we have to stand for each other,” said Azmi.