Support Center for Women
Supreme Council for Women

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
 Bahraini women constitute half of the society of the total population in the Kingdom of Bahrain at a rate of 49.47%. Bahraini women’s history witness a pioneer example for their peers in the Gulf countries in accessing education and employment, despite some community reservations of different social and professional status. I spite of that, there has not been a specific organization for monitoring Bahraini women’s complaints and needs.  Among the most prominent problems faced by Bahraini women:  Lack of a fixed monthly income for divorced Bahraini women legally and the right to apply for housing services at the ministry of housing as their male counter parts.  Excluding divorced, widowed or abandoned Bahraini women (without children) Also, unmarried women or an orphan who has exceeded the legal age from the housing services at the ministry of housing as their male counter parts.  Lack of Family Law which cause divorced Bahraini women to face challenges starting from stumbling in the court for the lengthy litigation procedures before in Sharia courts with regard to problems such as post-divorce custody and alimony.  Bahraini Women’s suffer for the procedures encounters dismissing the expenditure.  Due to the various societal problems related to women at different age group. There was a need for an official authority to monitor, receives the complaints and grievances of Bahraini and non-Bahraini women in order to help resolve them through the available means and mechanisms. The Centre started its activities with a Complaints Unit that has been formed since the SCW was established in August of 2001. The work of the Complaints Unit was then activated in July of 2004 and with the increasing number of complaints, it was developed to a full Complaints Centre by the end of 2008. Due to the diversity of complaints and applications forwarded to the center, and due to the critical need of Bahraini women for better support and attention, the center was transformed to the Women Support Centre in April of 2011. The center does not focuses only on receiving complaints but it also offers programs and projects that support and enable Bahraini women in various fields, namely in the economic sphere, and this is what makes this project unique and distinctive place where it ensures the continuity and sustainability of Bahraini women support.  Services provided:  Counseling and Guidance: Provide social protective and treatment services of family problems in order to achieve family development.  Receive Complaints: In order to identify the most important problems faced by women, including the administrative and legal obstacles that prevent women from living a secure and stable life in addition to assume their role in life.  The function of the Centre is to provide support to women, help resolve women issues and assist women acquire their human rights as guaranteed by the constitution and all international conventions and agreements signed by the Kingdom of Bahrain, in coordination with the organizations concerned.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
- The establishment of the Supreme Council for Women in August 2001 as a national mechanism for Bahraini women’s representation at the official level, both regionally and internationally. - The Supreme Council for Women has been established under the authority of His Majesty the King. It has a legal status, and considered a reference for women’s affairs to all official organizations. . It will express views and decide on the issues related directly or indirectly to women’s status. All official bodies will have to consult the Supreme Council for Women before taking or making decisions in this regard. Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa chairs the council which includes at least 16 members, representing public female figures experienced in women’s affairs. Their membership term is 3 years and can be renewed. A Royal Order shall be issued appointing the members of the council, while Her Highness chooses the deputy chairwoman. - The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain take into account women’s affairs. Article 5, paragraph (b), of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain of 2002 provides that the State shall guarantee reconciliation of a woman’s obligations towards her family with her work in society, as well as her equality with men in the political, social, cultural and economic spheres of life, without prejudice to the provisions of the Islamic Shariah. - Likewise, The economic vision of the Kingdom of Bahrain in 2030, is a comprehensive vision in essence reflects a fundamental common goal to build a better life for all Bahraini citizens without discrimination. Based on the three basic guidelines: sustainability, justice and competitiveness. - Following His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa‘s order, the Supreme Council for Women have conducted a field study on the situation of divorced women and their children in judiciary in 2002. It’s major implemented recommendations as follows: - The need to amend the Shari'ah law, and to give priority to family issues. - Customize the courts to implement the provisions of the religious judiciary. - Regulate marriage contracts for Bahraini women to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizens.. Create Alimony Fund. - Reconsider the criteria for assessing the alimony through instructions and directives of the Supreme Judicial Council to the issuance of Sharia courts. - Reorganization of the marriage certificate to ensure a minimum level of stability of marriage life. - The establishment of the Women's Support The function of the Centre is to provide support to women, help resolve women issues and assist women acquire their human rights as guaranteed by the constitution and all international conventions and agreements signed by the Kingdom of Bahrain, in coordination with the organizations concerned. The Centre shall:  Receive, review and analyze applications related to women affairs and issues and propose solutions.  Participate in preparing plans and strategies related to women issues.  Coordinate with all state organizations and the Supreme Council for Women General Secretariat in following up and finalizing applications received, according to approved policies and procedures.  Collect information from all applications and cases received related to women to the Women Information Centre.  Explore and seek ways to amend or introduce new resolutions, laws and legislations and propose improvement amendments and recommendations, according to the actual needs of women.  Contribute to spreading awareness of women’s rights and their legal rights, as well as the applicable laws related to women’s actual status.  Work towards ensuring a stable family environment for women through the provision of compulsory counseling and guidance to those involved in family disputes in order to resolve their issues.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
- The most creative and innovative approaches that have been invoked in this project is to solve problems and to ensure the sustainability of the services provided and raise their quality, are summarized in the following: - Diversity of support given, which was not limited to receiving complaints, but also it offers programs and projects that support Bahraini women in different areas and perhaps the most notable is the economic sphere. Also, it ensures continuity and sustainability of Bahraini women support. - Databases which assess decision-making and policy-making. - To be a model center, where the building was expanded to be able to provide more privacy for more customers, and takes into account the special needs, as well as a corner has been permitted for children as a play area. - The existence of representatives in the center is associated with the membership of many committees and task forces internally or externally. - facilitate and open channels of communication with the center by various electronic tools: a free telephone line and the easiness of accessing the building. - The existence of sustainable mechanisms to connect with customers and with service providers and decision-makers in different bodies.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
- The following is a brief prominent strategic stages and key developments in the establishment of the initiative: - The first phase (2002- 2003): study the current situation of Bahraini women’s need. - The second phase (2004): establish a Complaints unit in the Supreme Council for Women to monitor the complaints received by Bahraini women. - The third phase (2006): Establishment of the complaints center and due to the increase in the number and type of complaints faced by Bahraini women - The fourth phase (2011): The establishment of a center for supporting women and developing related policies - The fifth stage (2013): an integrated center providing and following -up family, social and economic services and capacity building - The following are the most prominent major activities during the implementation of the initiative: - a number of integrated databases has been established, as well as contributing to the implementation of a series of field studies in order to understand the current situation and identifying gaps. consequently, formulating a series of awareness and training programs aims at increasing the awareness and understanding of the Bahraini society regarding the values and concepts of stability and family bonding. - Women's Support center is considered among the SCW’s next phase mechanism to lead the national action in in the implementation of the national plan for the advancement of Bahraini women. - Services are provided through three divisions according to the following: - Department of complaints: receives legal complaints and the following-up requests with state ministries such as the Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Social Development and Nationality, passports and residence affairs. - Department of Counseling and Guidance: it provides guidance to the requests received by the Center for Women's Support .some are related to family counseling, social and psychological counseling. - Department of programs and projects: It implements a number of awareness and training programs aimed at capacity building in a number of economic, political and family spheres. It aims to provide Bahraini women with the necessary skills and techniques to enable them to perform their roles in public life. - The center receives inquiries from reviewers and the public by telephone, newspapers or e-mail. - The center receives inquiries from reviewers and the public by telephone, newspapers or e-mail. Workflow mechanism at Women's Support Centre:  Acceptance of the application: start at receiving the request or complaint at the reception desk and after making sure that they meet the conditions of access to the service.  Transference: the application will be transferred to the appropriate section, Take an hour - working day.  Procedures: when the specialist receives the appropriate proposal through an electronic system and after studying the application and verification of all actions, a report will be prepared regarding the compliant and the resolutions to overcome the case. And this process takes between two weeks - a month or more depending on the response.  Follow-ups: Women Support Centre will follow up the application with the official bodies in the event the applicant encounters any difficulties.  Close the file: The applicant will be informed with the final conclusion after.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Key stakeholders: - Beneficiaries / customer "service users": Bahraini women and non-Bahraini with children. - Service providers: The supreme Council for Women identified a required structure and tasks and mechanisms of action. - Senior leadership and decision-makers: His Majesty the King and Her Royal Highness the Princess President of the Supreme Council for Women, and members of the Supreme Council for Women representing public female figures experienced in women’s affairs. - Others involved supporters of the service providers: - Contracted lawyers with the SCW that provide legal aid service. - Contractors with experts in the areas of quality (such as a family, economic, political, and leadership). - Other official bodies which requests are referred to them for different jurisdiction (such as violence centers, social centers, the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, and the Ministry of Housing). - Programs Funders of projects (for example: the Islamic Development Bank, the Arab Gulf Program for Development - AGFUND). - Training agencies for programs and projects (for example: the University of Bahrain, Royal University for Women
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
A special budget has been allocated for the Centre from the Supreme Council for Women’s budget which is funded by the State. The budget covers all material obligations towards service providers within the framework of cooperation agreements with international organizations and bodies such as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), AGFUND, Islamic Bank, and Bahrain Development Bank. The costs associated with the expansion of the Women’s Support Centre as well as the costs of empowerment programmes (social, economic and political), there has been funding from different organizations which reflects the faith instilled in the initiatives of Kingdom of Bahrain as we seek to serve Bahraini women. With regards to the advisory services cost, they were (238095) USD while temporary projects cost (2380952) USD over 7 years (2008-2014). The benefits provided to Bahraini women from the Centre do not compare with the cost of those services and projects. The Center is divided into: - Waiting hall for reviewers with screens. - Waiting hall for reviewers with children equipped with television ( educational channels and cartoon) and a corner for reading and mind games. - Reception hall to meet the reviewer and enter their data - Room for seeing the legal advisors. - 2 rooms for guidance and direction advisors. - Offices for specialists in different areas. - Offices for administrative staff (director and heads). - Eco-friendly facilities and friendly to the disabled. - Appliances and furniture. - Technical resources. Information systems: - E-numbering system according to the type of demand - Electronic registration systems for reviewers - Sound and video recording of advisory halls - Emergency bell - Text message system - Toll free number - Recording system to monitor phone calls - System to track phone calls by e-mail and respond to past communications - Electronic forms available on the website Human resources: - Administration: Centre Director and Heads of Department - Specialists in the field of counseling and guidance - Specialists in the area of social services - Professionals in the legal field - Specialists in the area of project management - Experts are contracted in various fields: law firms, training experts, expert in social matters The Women's Support Centre strives to develop human resources and increase the skills, abilities and knowledge of the employees which will allow for the provision of excellent services to women. The Centre's training plan is also in accordance with the Supreme Council for Women's National Strategy which aims to, sharpen and develop the skills of employees in order for them to become the experts and consultants in all areas of services offered at the Centre instead of relying on outside sources.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The issue of the Housing Ministry resolution No. 12 of 2004: allowing Bahraini women who have custody of Bahraini children, breadwinners, and widows the ability to benefit from housing services. Furthermore, an exemption for Bahraini women (has a child, divorced or widowed) from waiting 5 years for housing allowance, instead the housing allowance is provided immediately from the date of submission of the application, and in 2006 the housing decision (No. 83) was issued which allows women the right to register her name to the living unit if she has contributed to its payment. The resolution also allows any adult, male or female to apply for housing with one or both parents. The Supreme Council for Women launched in cooperation with the Ministry of Housing a project named "Housing” which aims to empower Bahraini women that don't qualify for housing services such as divorced, widowed or abandoned women, in addition to single women who are orphaned and are over the legal age to benefit from (without right to ownership) from the housing services in accordance with substantive controls. - Cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs in relation to: the establishment of an alimony fund in 2005 whereby expenditures are provided to those who have been issued alimony however it is not being implemented, or for the duration of the court proceedings. The Act was amended in 2009 to include expenses for children of Bahraini women married to foreigners. An office to provide family reconciliation was inaugurated at the Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the Centre in July 2014 to provide consultations before raising the case in court from the Centre's experts. - Family law (section 1) 2009, which is to regulate marriage and the rights of both parties. In addition to amending the law proceedings before courts to give urgency to claims for custody, alimony and visitation. - Law No. 35 2009 which emphasizes treating foreign women married to Bahrainis and children of Bahraini women married to foreigners the same treatment as Bahrainis when it comes to accommodation fees, education and treatment. - Inauguration of "Riyadat" an economic incubation center for women. It is an initiative to create jobs by encouraging entrepreneurship and the development of small or medium enterprises. Riyadat provides administrative services, training, and consultations to their incubates. It is a joint initiative between the Supreme Council for Women and Bahrain Development Bank.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Follow-up, evaluation and monitoring of progress of initiative is done via the following: - Completing implementation of an electronic system for the women's support center in September 2011. It is the main database for the Centre as well as a general database for Bahraini women. The women's information center depends on this database to receive information relating to complaints in order to convert them to statistical data used as indicators for future studies in the area of women. It is also used to adopt resolutions to improve the services provided to women and improve their status. The system provides easy methods to retrieve information electronically and get rid of paper files since all the documents are added to the system. The database also facilitates the evaluation of the Centre's work as well as staff's appraisal of their daily work. The electronic system is a mechanism to study the needs of Bahraini women (Dashboard), and then develop strategies on these needs. - Periodic meetings and consultations with partners in regards to the implementation of the services provided by the Centre which is done through a number of focus groups, meetings, in addition to field visits which have helped to continually develop services provided by all parties. - Interactive visits are (Process Benchmarking) a self-evaluation and development mechanisms, such as: - Participating in an exploratory visit to Germany to gain insight into their experience in protecting human rights and freedoms in June 2014. - Family Forum 13 in the U.A.E. to identify the role of social institutions in family development with the aim of providing social services for all members of society through the provision of preventive ,therapeutic or development programmes to maintain family stability (2013). - Benefiting from international experts through the training provided to the Centre's staff in Egypt and transferring the knowledge to other staff (2011). - The first training course for senior staff in the Arab Complaints Office via an invitation from the regional network of offices with complaints (Ombudsman) in cooperation with the Office of the Ombudsman, which was held in Rabat, 2007. - Evaluating the services provided by the Centre using customer evaluation forms which are available at the front desk as well as online. - Social media channels also play a role in assessing and developing the Centre's services.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Physical obstacles: - the costs of training programmes proposed exceed the budget allocated to the Centre, however these obstacles were overcome by finding funding agencies to support the budget required to implement these programmes such as (Labour Fund "Tamkeen", Bahrain Development Bank, Islamic Bank for Development, and "AGFUND"). Technical obstacles: - Finding ways to electronically network with institutions and ministries that cooperate in the provision of services. However seeing the difficulty of implementing electronic networking due to the privacy and confidentiality of data, there is coordination with relevant institutions to implement an electronic feed according to requirements of the provision of services with these institutions. - The implementation of specialized training programs require expertise not available in the Centre's staff. To overcome this obstacle, the Centre collaborated with specialized training and relevant experts to implement training programmes in specific areas such as the economic and political empowerment. Legislative challenges: - The Centre also faced a number of due to a lack of legislation relating to women (for example, the absence of a law on protection from family violence), these obstacles have been overcome by following up with the related organizations, for example, a Coordinating Committee has been set up between the Supreme Council for Women and members of the House of Representatives and the Consultative Council. This is to help provide legislative and regulatory framework for the integration of women's needs through the tools and mechanisms available to the legislature to achieve equality of opportunities at the national level. For example there was recently the formation of a national team and drafting of a national strategy to combat domestic violence against women in Bahrain.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
- Enhancing family ties in the community: through guidance and counseling services to reviewers with the aim of providing psychological and social stability for all members of the family suffering from the stress of marital or family problems, as well as to reduce divorce cases through reconciliation. - The protection of women against all forms of domestic violence: there are a number of bodies concerned with domestic violence who track cases of domestic violence of women and girls in Bahrain separately. In order to centralize and standardize the efforts of those seeking , the Supreme Council for Women seeks to activate an electronic link with the relevant authorities in the Kingdom to establish a unified and comprehensive database for cases of domestic violence. - Reduce problems after divorce: the concerned staff seeks to reach amicable divorce settlements in regards to visitation rights, alimony, and housing to avoid spending a long time reaching reconciliation in court Consultations are provided to help prepare divorcees for the emotional turmoil they may endure before, during and after the divorce. - Include the concepts and values that support the role of women in economic and social development in the educational curricula and training: - Having consultative meetings with the Ministry of Education to identify and develop the concepts supporting the role of women in economic and social development. - Organizing an educational conference for teachers on the role of education to improve conditions for women and support her overall development in cooperation with relevant parties such as the Ministry of Education. - The Centre staff participated in a number of workshops "Injaz" which is considered extra-curricular programmes aimed at promoting the concept of entrepreneurship among young people. - Empowering women to be economically self-reliant, with a focus on reducing the proportion of unemployed women. - The implementation of programmes aimed at the economic empowerment of women with secondary education. - Implement training programmes aimed to provide women with the skills and techniques necessary to be able to create or manage small projects or enter into new areas of work. - The implementation of training programmes in entrepreneurship in cooperation with UNIDO to beneficiaries of previous training programmes, with the aim of creating jobs through employing the skills gained in the area of entrepreneurship. - Participation in the organization of the first and second exhibition for women and work in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour, to support national efforts in the field of employment creation for women seeking employment. - Achieving sustainability of women's work in the area of entrepreneurship to ensure family needs: service projects were implemented as well as advisory in entrepreneurship with partners, including: - A Fund from Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa to support business activity for women, and to support the business activity of women and encourage them to achieve their aspirations through the implementation or development of its trade through micro loans. - Women's Incubation Centre "Riyadat" an integrated economic incubator which provides all administrative services, training and consultations for the beneficiaries. - Enable women to enjoy a dignified and secure life during all ages: by tracking service requests with State ministries of key files: - Housing applications. - Requests for the granting of nationality to the children of a Bahraini woman married to a foreigner. - Requests for project (restoration) of dilapidated houses. - Requests for sponsorship and accommodation. - Support for women in emergency cases for a temporary period of time. - Disbursement of social security. - Achieving competitiveness in all sectors, disciplines and levels through the empowerment of women and the community about their rights and duties: through the implementation of the programme of political empowerment of Bahraini women in collaboration with the Bahrain Institute for Political Development, which included five main fields: - Training / workshops - Training women candidates and her campaigners - Training on best method for Media  Increase awareness about elections and rights of voters.  Documentation. Many lectures were carried out on the rights and duties of the family in general and women in particular, in cooperation with the law firms that provide judicial assistance.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
 The Women’s Support Center is one of the main entities in the structure of the SCW. This is supposed to serve as a tool for sustainability to provide all the services and responsibilities of the SCW.  The SCW work method, and its keenness to follow up on the implementation of the National Strategy for the Advancement of Bahraini Women. Which designated an impact for family stability, which is directly related to the services of the Women Support Centre to include six outcomes in partnership with the partnering entities. Also, the efforts of the National Plan and Strategy that aim at the constant evaluation and measuring the impact for all the services.  Additionally, SCW is committed to all the Memorandums of Understanding and Cooperation Agreements signed with partners; governmental and non-governmental organizations, to ensure the sustainability of the center.  The Women Support Center aims at providing services at the highest possible quality, to meet the different needs. This is clearly demonstrated through the guidance services provided for less than the expected cost.  The coordination efforts with the different departments of the center through partnership (for example Riyadat), to implement the programs and provide services of high quality, of which we aim to reflect directly on governmental budgets responsive to women’s needs.  For example, investing knowledge exchange to ensure the sustainability of awareness programs on the skills of family reconciliation, the center conducted training programs for the specialists in the field to provide family guidance services in a number of entities such as the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Health.  With regards to the House of Expertise impact of the National Plan for the Advancement of Bahraini Women, the Women Support Center worked towards investing partnerships to provide the best perspectives of effective partnerships on the national level. The Family reconciliation office at the Ministry of Justice came as a model, based on the principles of partnership and knowledge exchange. The work mechanism relies upon conducting interviews with those who filed divorce cases, as per the desire of the requesters.  The Women Support Center proved that the initiative is improvable and easily implemented according to the different standards. It is also an initiative that can be implemented in other countries to ensure competitiveness at the local, regional and international level.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The periodic evaluation and review work process of the Women Support Center resulted in:  Making the guidance service mandatory for the incoming divorce cases, to achieve marriage reconciliation and amicable settlement for agreed divorce, along with agreement to issues such as custody, alimony and accommodation to avoid the long court procedures.  The Programs and Projects Department was a separate department. At a later stage, it was integrated in the Center to ensure the variety of services provided to include awareness and training programs to empower Bahraini women to do their role in public life.  The center had an independent database, therefore the provision of services used to take long time and a lot of effort. However, the process of electronic feeding with the governmental entities was established to address these issues.  Despite the lessons learned, the center was challenged by a number of issues such as the lack of cooperation with some of the governmental entities, in addition to the difficulty in obtaining the information and updated data. Therefore, the center worked towards the following: - Intensification of media awareness and SCW activities in all the governorates, along with the agreements and MOUs with different governmental and civil sector partners. - Clarification of the center’s work as a consultative body. - Partnership with the relevant entities to build the capacity of women in different fields. - Partnering with the relevant entities concerned with legislation and service to bridge the gaps. - Working towards setting a proposal to address family issues and making family reconciliation mandatory as a protective measure before proceeding to the court. - Elaboration in protective and guidance services along with legal advice in terms of family field in particular. - Raising awareness regarding the importance of safe divorce, and activating the amicable settlement processes to lower the rate of people proceeding to courts for divorce. - Building an electronic system to monitor the studies related to family stability. - Improving education curricula with regards to family guidance aspects. - Building the capacities working in the consulting centers specialized in violence and family guidance. - Building a unified database for violence cases in cooperation with the relevant entities. - Lobbying towards the issuance of the second part of the family law through campaigns highlighting the obstacles facing women in courts.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Supreme Council for Women
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Hala Mohammed Al-Ansari
Title:   Secretary General  
Telephone/ Fax:   Tel: +97317417223 / Fax: +973415311
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   Building 1003 Road 2825
Postal Code:   Block 928
City:   Western Riffa
State/Province:   Riffa

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