Powered by self-belief and inspired by opportunities, the Omani woman is ready to play her role in all walks of life. Alvin Thomas meets a passionate bunch of them
She is ambitious, she is driven and she is on top of her game. But that is just what her portfolio says. As she looks into the lens of the camera, it is evident she is more than what her image suggests.
It becomes clear that she is motivated: she has a vision and a goal, both of which are not only aimed at making her and her family proud of her but also intended to show the whole country what she can do. In the process, she will craft a sense of achievement in the minds of those following in her footsteps.
This, she believes, will set afoot a new generation of youth which will create its own waves and etch names into the history books.
And, as we celebrated the landmark Omani Women’s Day on Tuesday, October 17, we turn the spotlight on a few of these women who have embarked on journeys across various paths; from top CEOs to doctors, actresses and sportswomen, all united by one thing – the belief to succeed and make a difference for their beloved country.
Maryam al Zadjali
Maryam al Zadjali, member of Oman’s State Council and chairperson of Dar Al Atta’a – a charity organisation that caters to the needy in the Sultanate – talks about her roles and how she overcomes her daily struggles to build on her dream of helping others in need.
“It’s hard to describe the incredible support that we have received from the Omani community. It’s not new for Omanis, as it is part of our culture. Despite that, it has been overwhelming, and that’s what encourages us, keeps us positive and inspires us to give more.
We struggle to keep up with the increasing demand from Dar Al Atta’a. The focus of our activities is to create fundraising programmes that are effective and diverse.
We are continuously brainstorming for new ideas to raise more funds and, at the same time, engage our audience in order to produce more effective results and achievements.
I believe that there is always a chance and opportunity whether your idea or project requires support from the government or the corporate sector.
Success requires focused planning and hard work. Setting goals is crucial to understand where you’re at and where you aim to be. Although the pace of life is becoming faster, we all need to take advantage of our free time and I encourage all young Omani women to learn new things. Challenging our minds is what will develop us and our skills. Learning is what inspires us to succeed.”
Her Highness Sayyida Basma al Said
Sayyida Basma al Said, founder of Whispers of Serenity – Oman’s first mental health clinic that aims at raising mental health awareness – talks about the importance of a day marked for women in Oman and how women have been making their mark in the country for decades
“What I believe is that Omani women have to be thankful for having this wonderful opportunity and acknowledge this. A lot of us fail to not realise that and tend to think that we need more.
We need to appreciate where we have reached today; we need to think about tomorrow and think about how we can expand in and outside Oman in different ways, and not in the traditional way that we have been doing.
Yes, we have ambassadors, ministers, doctors and so on, but choosing new things must be our next goal. Today, we hear the stories of Omani women climbing Mount Everest, sailing, and doing lots of new activities that we hadn’t heard of before, and that is also an accomplishment.
Being diverse and doing things internationally, and getting people to know how an Omani woman is and what her strengths are, and what she is capable of, is important.
We need to appreciate ourselves, be mindful of where we are today and have that one thing that is very vital: self-esteem and self-awareness, and we will fly. Just keep in mind what His Majesty the Sultan said: ‘Like the bird that worked side by side by her Omani brother to make Oman succeed in a beautiful, graceful way, and to be known internationally as the country of peace and giving.’ ”
Dr. Amal al Hashmi
Dr Amal al Hashmi, BSc, MD; senior consultant neurologist and head of the Central Stroke Unit in the Ministry of Health, is Oman’s first woman adult neurologist. She is also an associate editor at the international Journal of Psychology and Neuroscience, a member of the Omani Human Rights Commission, and former vice president of the Oman Medical Association. Here she shares her experiences and advises young women about how to pursue her profession.
“At the outset, I would like to thank His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said for declaring October 17 as Omani Women’s Day. It’s a day to celebrate womanhood, honour Omani women and recognise the status that they have earned in practical and social aspects of society.
Apart from International Women’s Day (March 8), I don’t think there is any country other than Oman in the region that celebrates women’s day on a national level. All of us are proud of this.”
Talking about Omani women opting for neurology and neuro-sciences, Dr Amal says:
“I will say go for it! The subject of neurology is expanding every day and vast research has been conducted on it in the last few years. My advice to our young Omani women is to grab the opportunity the government is offering and serve the nation. That
Neurology is not limited to just the brain but the entire nervous system, including the spine. It’s the most rational field of medicine and I am proud to say that I am the first Omani woman neurologist. It is a challenging field but life without challenges is always going to be boring.
I always dreamed of being a doctor; the field of medicine always inspired me. Even at the age of five, I used to play as a doctor and call my cousins, friends and kids in the neighbourhood to act as patients. But, honestly, I never realised I would reach this stage someday. It’s pure hard work and I should thank my parents and mentors who inspired me throughout my journey.”
Neurology may be a male-dominated profession, but Dr Amal believes that this is changing:
“The journey has been fascinating and I have come a long way. But more women are now choosing neurology, which is otherwise a male bastion. I am proud to say that I set up the first stroke unit in Oman at the Khoula Hospital and now we have just opened two more in Nizwa and Sohar hospitals. We are also going to have one more new stroke unit at Sultan Qaboos Hospital in Salalah. Through these units, my mission is to improve the stroke care provided for patients in Oman to match the standardised and up to date management worldwide. Stroke as you know is the second leading cause of death worldwide and Oman is no different. People need to be englightened and pay more attention.”
Lieutenant Colonel Shaikha bint Ashour al Hambasiyah
Lt Col Shaikha Ashour, new head of the Al Wattayah police station, shows young minds the path ahead by setting herself as an example. Here she passes on words of encouragement to the women of the Sultanate.
“The woman’s day celebration, which happens every year, shows the successful role women play in all areas of work in the country. The mother, wife and even the daughter have big and important roles to contribute and participate in developing the nation.
It was an opportunity when I was nominated to be a police officer in 1996. It was the first for an Omani police woman at that time. I believe it was a challenge and a step towards success.
I also had the honour to be a commander of the parade military in 2011 in the presence of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. The trust of the ROP headquarters to post me as officer in charge of the Wattayah police station came in 2016.
To achieve goals, you are required to work hard and desire to reach the required goals. This will not come easy.
You will have to be brave and overcome many difficulties.”
Laila Mohsen al Barwani
Laila Mohsen al Barwani may act from behind the scenes, but her work as the IT manager has made the lives of thousands of visitors at the InterContinental Muscat hotel easier. She talks about her slow rise in the ranks, and about how young women must be patient when striving to achieve their goals. The Omani woman is now the second female IT manager in the IMEA – an international membership organisation committed to global sustainability.
“There will be several challenges in life. But I must say that the confidence I received from my parents and family and the passion about the work I do is what makes me the person that I am today. Thanks to that initial push, I am now responsible, professional and wiser.
Of course, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) also gave me the opportunity to establish my career in this field. I started as an accountant receivable clerk in 1994, and then worked my way up to what I am today. I am also celebrating my 24th work anniversary here.
In between, I had taken up the position of income auditor supervisor, systems supervisor and even assistance IT manager, before finally reaching the position that I have today. There are still days that I do not go home to achieve targets and complete work. That is the sign that you are in a job that you love doing.
Back when I started, there was a stigma attached to working in the hospitality industry but my family really
supported me through it all. Today, however, the industry is growing fast in the Sultanate. I encourage all Omanis who enjoys taking up challenges, or are customer-oriented, to join and have a career in this field.
There’s nothing more satisfying that watching a smiling customer.
Coming back to the topic, Omani Women’s Day really reminds me to be proud of being a woman. I would also like to thank His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said for giving us this special day. We feel proud to be a part of this society and, as you can see, a lot of women have taken up important positions across Oman.
I would also like to tell every youngster that patience is really a virtue. It takes you a long way. It avoids you from taking harsh decisions and thereby allows you to think properly and also work better.”
Amal al Raisi
Celebrity fashion designer Amal al Raisi is one of Oman’s greatest assets. Not only does she showcase her fashion in her country, but also internationally, in fashion capitals such as Paris and Turin. She talks about her life and give young and aspiring designers a push for glory.
“I take pride in representing my country on an international platform and the love and encouragement that I have been receiving from Oman drives me to do better.
Being able to witness women wearing my label is the biggest source of encouragement. Also, social media is a great platform to stay connected and get feedback from my people.
I am honoured to be a motivation for young minds. I would like to advise young women about the importance of having a career. The days that women sit at home are long gone. Follow your dream and be passionate about whatever career
I would also like to advise to always compete with yourself to be the best of you and to face the hardships that life throws at you with a smile on your face.
My career in fashion began with me wanting a bespoken piece for my wedding. During the journey of creating it I realised my passion. When I started with this career, there were very few designers in Oman and it was a career almost untouched by Omanis.
Therefore, the challenge was not only to make my existence but also to introduce the art of haute couture to Oman. So the struggle was real but I honestly enjoyed every bit of it.
I like to challenge myself from my comfort zone as I move forward from each season. It inspires me to face new challenges and move ahead. The love and support that I get from my family also inspires me to do better.”
Maha al Balushi
Oman Air’s first woman pilot Maha al Balushi talks about taking to the skies, but advises young women that when it comes to chasing their dreams, the sky is not the limit.
“I was very excited to operate my first flight. It was a great first experience that changed the way I looked at aviation before. It gave me a great sense of responsibility. With that first flight I knew that I had made the right decision in my career, and that it was the job I was born to do.
Although we are a part of an Arab and Muslim culture, which is also very much bound by traditions, the reaction of most people came in the form of encouragement and support for the idea of a female flying aéroplanes.
Of course, there are always those few individuals who find it difficult to accept any new concepts in culture. But, overall, I see people full of pride and support when they see me in uniform.
If you want to be a pilot, it should come out of passion. Image, prestige or money should not be the driving force behind your decision. There is a lot of work that has to be done to excel. No short cuts or easy goings are allowed, and nothing below the highest levels of professionalism is accepted.
If aviation is your dream, go for it and remember that we have the capability to be what we want to be. You only need to stay focused and strong no matter how you struggle along your path to success.
My advice to the Omani youth in general – and to females in particular – is that we must follow our inner voice that tells us what we truly want to be. We should know what we are passionate about, bring it out and excel in it.
And, no matter what our ambitions are, I believe that hard work will be the key to success and the way forward to accomplish your dreams. Remember this: luck doesn’t exist, and if you want to succeed, you should choose between working hard or relaxing; each of them is in a different circle and do not mix in one place.
I would also like to tell all Omani women out there that we are together. And our responsibility is to build our country and seek a better life that is no less than that of our brothers. Side by side with the men, we can make a greater power.”
Television presenter, actress and musician, Taj Noor reveals the importance of Women’s Day in Oman, but opens up about the challenges she faced in the initial days of her (now) illustrious career.
I feel that I am proud and very, very happy to be a part of this country. It has given me and all the women in the country so much importance; it has given a special day for us to focus on and talk about us, and show everyone our successes, accomplishments and the abilities we have.
It also throws light on how women have helped develop the country and do everything, and how we can be beside the man and develop the thinking of everything we have around us.
I did not plan to be a public personality but from my insides, I always knew that I wanted to do something unique and that people would know me because I did it.
As for the challenges that I faced, the first was society; and the second, my family. It is difficult to be someone different here. Yes, we grow up and develop our careers but society still wants us to hold back sometimes. There were a lot of questions that were asked when I started appearing as an actress.
But the first support was also my family. They took me by my hand and led me forward. When people started asking questions about my existence in the public sphere, they started asking questions to my family. All of that has changed
My goal, however, is to become the best media personality and use that to help people; I like people to come to me if they think I can help resolve their problems.
And I would like to see all the women in the country to succeed and, in turn, see the world – not just Oman – happy and prosperous. In many other countries, women are not given her rights, and I would like to see that change, first.”