Social Support in Kuwait

Public and private stakeholders are implementing programs of social uplift in Kuwait.

Kuwait has seen a wave of societal changes over the last couple of decades. From the simplicity of the pre-oil era to its current state of wealth, multiculturalism, and modernization,

Kuwait has seen quite a transformation. While retaining the essence of its Arabic and Islamic identity, the Kuwaiti culture has been truly dynamic in evolving in pace with the spirit of the age. The Kuwaiti people are increasingly caring about new values from equal opportunities to the importance of mental health.

This cultural transition is supported by public and private institutions in the country. Alnowair foundation, for example, takes pride in “bringing positive social and behavioral change” to Kuwait, while raising awareness about socially important issues, “one mind at a time.” Public stakeholders such as the Ministry of Education and the Higher Authority for Planning and Development are also trying to do their bit.

Women in leadership

Kuwait has been among the first in the GCC region to embrace the empowerment of women. In the 1990s, Kuwait University, for example, was the first major Arab academic center to have a woman president, Dr. Faiza Al-Kharafi. There are similar instances of women making it to the top in the media, executive positions, and the judicial system.
In a historic turn in 2020, eight women took the legal oath of office, becoming the “first women to be sworn in as judges in Kuwait,” according to Kuwait Times. This was followed by the appointment of 13 female prosecutors in 2022—who made up nearly 25% of the new judicial appointments in that year.

“And to further support these gender reform efforts, the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council of Planning and Development formed the Women’s Affairs and Business Committee in May 2021 with the mandate of boosting women’s economic empowerment,” reads a blog post by the World Bank. This has reinforced the place of Kuwaiti businesswomen in the nation’s economy. The likes of Sheikha Bashayer Al Sabah-Arab, Noor Al Qatami, and Rana Al-Nibari are frequently seen in the country’s business ecosystem these days.

Steps have also been taken to encourage leadership among women from an early age. The country’s Public Authority for Youth, in cooperation with Alnowair foundation, has launched an initiative which focuses on leadership skills among schoolgirls. The initiative uses the medium of drama and performing arts to foster skills such as public speaking, audience engagement, and performance under pressure among young women.

And in the private sector, companies in Kuwait recently launched the Women’s Economic Empowerment Platform (WEEP), providing practical guidance to businesses to empower women

Community values

A thorough societal change will not be possible without the promotion of the right community values. Foundations such as Alnowair have taken it upon themselves to make a difference in this area. Sheikha Intisar Al-Sabah, Alnowair’s founder, spoke to TBY about its various initiatives. The Boomerang project, for instance, which has the support of the Ministry of Education as well as the private sector, has reached out to over 11,000 students so far to “prevent bullying and promote kindness among students and the wider community,” as Sheikha Al-Sabah puts it.

Sheikha Al-Sabah told TBY about yet another initiative called “30 Yellow Benches.” This progressive project is intended to increase the residents’ peace of mind through activities similar to meditation. The promotion of mindfulness and peacefulness is undoubtedly needed in a society in the process of modernization, where some may feel overwhelmed and confused. By designing and installing benches in Kuwait City, Alnowair has invited citizens to take a few minutes off, simply sit down, empty their minds, and engage with their environment.

“The wonderful thing is that you can find them everywhere. We have installed them in the desert, on the beach, at the animal shelter, and in the parks. The project has been a great success so far,” notes Sheikha Al-Sabah.

Importance of mental health

With Kuwait’s transformation into a more complex society, the issue of mental health has indeed come to the forefront. With Kuwait rapidly evolving, the nation is more exposed to the stress and other downsides of modern life. Loneliness, anxiety, and depression are currently major threats inside and outside the workplace in many developed economies. Fortunately, however, health authorities in the country are taking mental health problems seriously, including by launching awareness-raising campaigns. The country’s Ministry of Health launched a campaign called “Now I Understand” in 2022 to support those affected by issues such as stress and depression, letting them know that there should be absolutely no stigma attached to these conditions.

Dr. Dina Al-Dhubaib from the Ministry of Health explained to The Times Kuwait that the “campaign emphasizes the importance of mental healthcare for all ages,” adding that “mental healthcare is not limited to the mental health clinic but is the responsibility of every individual anywhere.” It is hoped that the initiative will encourage those at risk to seek professional help, thus making the country’s population healthier and more efficient individuals.