24/12/2005

Housing loans for women a step in right direction

Vol XXVIII   NO. 279      Saturday      24th December 2005

Finally, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. According to Works and Housing Minister Fahmi Al Jowder, 35 per cent of the 1,175 families who will benefit from housing loans worth BD31 million are headed by women.

This is a sizeable proportion, considering that traditionally a woman cannot be seen to live on her own in our society.

Should her marriage fail or her husband die, God forbid, she should automatically return to her parental home.

Shelter is one of the fundamental human rights in the Human Rights Charter, a right many women were denied in the past, simply because they were women.

The fact that they are mothers, with children, parents and other relatives to care for, meant nothing to many decision-makers who believed that a Utopia existed where all men were responsible and provided for their families and ensured that there was a shelter over their heads.

The fact that there are single women out there who are not destined to be married and who have no homes of their own, did not make a difference.

When marriages turn sour, women and their children are usually the first and only victims, with some cruel men actually throwing their families on the street.

With archaic property and housing laws which stipulated that government homes must be in the name of the male head of the family, some women found themselves on the streets with their children.

I have seen with my own eyes what has happened to women turned away from their families' homes and told to fend for themselves, in a world which is not and has never been charitable to divorced and widowed women.

I know of a woman who has been moving apartments every few months for at least 18 years, because every time she applied to the Housing Ministry for a home, her application was turned down because she was not married!

I am delighted to see that women are finally being treated with a little bit of justice and that they will be given nearly a third of housing loans approved by the government.

This will give those women and their children safety, security and peace of mind.

It will go a long way towards ensuring that justice, government support, human rights, independence and dignity are not restricted to men alone.

Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

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