Kuwait Appoints First Woman to Cabinet Post

The Kuwaiti government has appointed its first female Cabinet minister, a month after lawmakers in this oil-rich nation granted women the right to vote and run for office, state-owned television reported Sunday.

Political science teacher Massouma al-Mubarak (search), a women's rights activist and columnist, was given the planning and administrative development portfolios, Prime Minister Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah (search) was quoted as saying. The two portfolios previously were held by Sheik Ahmed Abdullah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, who also is the communications minister.

"I'm happy," al-Mubarak, 54, told The Associated Press. "This honor is not bestowed on my person but on every woman who fought to prove that Kuwaiti women are capable."

Al-Mubarak's appointment needs to be approved by the emir, Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah (search), and issued in a decree. That move is procedural since the emir has been a strong proponent of women's rights.

Al-Mubarak said she needed time to study the plans at the ministry before she speaks of her own plans.

Al-Mubarak has a Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Denver. She has taught political science at Kuwait University since 1982 and writes a daily column for Al-Anba newspaper.

When al-Mubarak takes up her post, she — like other Cabinet ministers — will be able to vote in the legislature in accordance with the 1962 constitution.

Kuwaiti women have reached high positions in the oil industry, education and the diplomatic corps, but they had demanded political rights, which were opposed by fundamentalist Muslims and tribal lawmakers.

Women can now vote in all Middle Eastern nations where elections are held except Saudi Arabia. The Gulf nations of Bahrain, Qatar and Oman all had their first elections in recent years and have allowed women to cast ballots.