There is a time for public speeches and grandstanding, and a time for quiet conversations and deal making. Much of parliamentary work in fact takes place outside of public view. So is it fair to complain that female members of the Federal National Council have not commented or asked a single question during the current legislative chapter's five sessions so far?
As The National reported yesterday, some colleagues and former FNC members have criticised the relative silence of the FNC's women.
The comparison is misleading. Female members form only 17 per cent of the council's members. And more than 52 per cent of the male members have not contributed questions either (Only 12 FNC men have questioned ministers during this time). So the majority of FNC members, of both genders, have yet to present questions in open sessions. All should be encouraged to participate.
A significant part of the FNC's work is done in eight specialist committees that conduct research and field studies before presenting their findings. All FNC members have committee memberships, according to their areas of interest. So women's contributions should be judged individually, and on the basis of their committee work.
"Going through lengthy session minutes, which record every word - you can find a very good contribution from women members," said FNC member Noura Al Kaabi. "People should understand each member has a specific specialisation that they represent in the varied committees."
The council's influence can be felt most strongly when questioning federal officials on their performances. Legislative review (which involves suggestions for amendments to laws nearing adoption) is certainly significant. But issues such as why a certain ministry has failed to provide certain services are what make the FNC influential. That is a reason why female members may want to take part in question-and-answer sessions, starting perhaps with issues of great interest to women, such as family law, education, or health.
For cultural reasons too, the female members may have reservations about standing up and offering opinions. But women, like men, are individuals. Each FNC member has skills to offer, and each member should - and will - be judged according to overall performance.