Browsing 'women' News

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Qatar residents – especially women – are among the most sedentary in the world, a new Stanford University study has found.

The report, published in international science journal Nature, found that people living in Qatar take some 4,158 steps on average each day.

That’s a ways below the global average of 4,961.

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To arrive at their conclusions, scientists at the US-based university analyzed the steps taken by more than 700,000 people in 111 countries, using the data from the accelerometers on their smartphones.

Activity inequality

Interestingly, researchers said that the number of steps taken wasn’t as important as how evenly divided activity was between men and women.

The bigger the gap in activity levels, the more likely it was that the country struggled with obesity problems, the report’s authors said.

“When activity inequality is greatest, women’s activity is reduced much more dramatically than men’s activity, and thus the negative connections to obesity can affect women more greatly,” computer scientist Jure Leskovec said.

Qatar was ranked most unequal in terms of activity levels on the index,. Women take 38 percent fewer daily steps than men (2,978 compared to 4,802).

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Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US also fared poorly when it came to activity inequality, and all of these nations also have a high prevalence of obesity.

At the top of the rankings were Hong Kong, China and Ukraine. In each of these countries, residents walked more than 6,000 steps a day.

‘Ticking time bomb’

Qatar and its neighbors’ poor scores likely don’t come as a surprise to many in the Gulf.

Just last month, medical experts warned that lifestyle-related diseases among women in the region are a “ticking time bomb.”

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In a new study about GCC women’s health issues, researchers found that the highest prevalence of obesity was in Qatar.

A whopping 45.3 percent of women in the country were classified as obese based on their body mass index. And 61 percent of women in Qatar walked less than 20 minutes a day.

Similar rates were found in other Gulf states, according to the report, titled The Ticking Time Bomb in Lifestyle-related Diseases Among Women in the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries.

This is in part due to a lack of facilities or access to fitness centers, the National reported.

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The desert climate, a lack of social support and prevalence of household help also play a role, according to the study’s lead author.

Dr. Mashael Alshaikh explained:

“The social norms and the effect of urbanization, such as importing cheap labor to help the woman in the house – this limits the physical activity, even inside the house.

Data from the WHO shows that the countries with gender inequality have more health risks, that’s why we focused on cardiovascular disease prevention.”

Walkability

To improve activity levels worldwide, Stanford researchers suggested creating an environment in which it is safe and enjoyable to walk.

Citing examples in the US, Dr. Scott Delp said:

“If you must cross major highways to get from point A to point B in a city, the walkability is low; people rely on cars,” he said. “In cities like New York and San Francisco, where you can get across town on foot safely, the city has high walkability.”

In Qatar, walking continues to be a difficult and sometime dangerous activity. This is due to ongoing construction, the heat and stares from passersby, according to some women.

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However, authorities are working to establish more pedestrian-friendly interchanges, especially at “black spots” around the country.

What else do you think can be done to boost activity levels in Qatar? Thoughts?

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Qataris heading to Austria this fall should take note of an upcoming ban on full-faced veils, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said.

In a travel advisory reported by QNA, the ministry said citizens who wish to travel to the country once the ban takes effect in October “must abide by it.”

Earlier this year, Austria’s government approved legislation to fine people who wear clothes that obstruct their facial features in public places.

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Those who do so could be slapped with a €150 (QR614) penalty.

The ban includes burqas and niqabs worn by women at universities, courts or while riding public transport, according to local media.

Across Europe

Other European countries including France, Belgium and the Netherlands have also banned the burqa and niqab in public.

And Germany and Norway have been considering following suit.

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Most Muslim scholars agree that women are not Islamically required to cover their faces in public.

However, some women, including in Qatar, wear niqabs for cultural reasons or because they feel more comfortable this way.

Politics

Austria’s ban has been denounced by Muslims in the country, who say it plays into Islamophobia. Thousands even rallied against the legislation in Vienna in February.

“Every woman must be able to move freely in public without harassment and discrimination – no matter what she does or does not wear,” one Muslim youth group said on its Facebook page.

According to the Guardian, the move is more a political one than anything else, as government leaders struggle to win the public’s approval.

“Only between 100 and 150 women are estimated to wear the full-face veil in Austria,” the newspaper reported earlier this year.

Zell am See Kaprun/Facebook

Zell am See Kaprun

It added that the ban would apply in tourist destinations such as the Zell am See ski resort as well as the more urban city of Vienna.

Would the ban affect your decision to visit Vienna? Thoughts?

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Hundreds of Qatar University students and community members have been debating gender segregation in school and society this week.

The discussion was sparked by a woman who was recently elected to the student union of QU’s College of Sharia and Islamic Studies, but then objected about the meetings being mixed.

Last month, Mariam Al-Dosari began complaining that the union was not accommodating her request to attend the meetings via video conference, so that she wouldn’t have to meet with male students face-to-face.

Translation: It is really strange that the student council meetings are gender-mixed as it contradicts Qatar University’s segregation policy in classes.

A few weeks later, in early March, Al-Dosari began complaining that her requests were not being met.

Hashtag debate

This led to the creation of a now-viral hashtag on Twitter, كلنا_مريم_الدوسري# (We are all Mariam Al-Dosari).

Many people who engaged in the debate said they sympathized with Al-Dosari’s plight, saying her request should have been honored.

Others saw the issue as an attempt to westernize Qatar in a way that goes against the country’s traditions and values.

Translation: I pity those who reduce this issue to make it only about Mariam. It simply isn’t. It’s a matter of principle; an issue pertaining to the chaste women of Qatar and the values virtue and modesty they were brought up with. Sooner or later the truth will prevail.

Translation: She lives in her home country and has a right to an education that suits her traditions and values.

Translation: Instead of teaching students freedom of expression and democracy a student is being punished by being expelled from the student council and then to add insult to injury, she gets yelled at as if expulsion isn’t enough.

Counterpoints

But many others said it was unreasonable to always expect things to be segregated by gender.

Some critics pointed out that Al-Dosari knew the format of the meetings before she became a representative.

And a few said students are capable of meeting each other in mixed company without anything untoward happening.

Translation: What kind of empowerment and enablement are you searching for and wishing to achieve in the future when you already refuse to attend official public meetings?

Translation: The seatings at the meetings are divided, the front rows are for female students and the back ones for males or the other way around. They don’t even sit next to each other.

Qatar University has not officially weighed in on the discussion, nor has the student union.

On Twitter, some have suggested that Al-Dosari is no longer on the student council, but she has not confirmed this.

A better future

For some, the debate raises a larger question about men and women’s interaction in society.

In an opinion piece this week, QU alum Shabeb Al Rumaihi pointed out that many of his university’s annual events, conferences and movie screenings were not segregated affairs.

Qatar University

Qatar University

“You can not bring a head of state or an international actor to give two separate lectures,” he said.

He added that he didn’t feel mixed events threatened Qatar’s cultural values, and that this helps facilitate female leadership.

“I see it as an opportunity to innovate a new cultural platform that believes in developing a society that needs men and women working together to develop a better future for Qatar.”

He concluded by pointing that during his undergraduate years, there were three female college deans at QU. Now, there’s only one.

Thoughts?