This is the first time that as many as five women ambassadors have been serving in the Sultanate at the same time. Until now, it has been occasionally none and usually been less than three - and so five seems like luxury, even though women represent less than ten percent of the fifty-two envoys and country representatives in Oman.
These five accomplished diplomats come from Brazil, Italy, the USA, Iraq, and The Netherlands. Each one has a different story to tell:
The first to arrive in Oman was Mitzi de Costa, Ambassador of Brazil. Although her father was a diplomat, Mitzi grew up without any interest in the Foreign Service. No, she wanted to be an astronaut and took a degree in Nuclear Physics with the aim of working for NASA. When she visited her father in Saudi Arabia, Mitzi volunteered to help out in the Embassy, which was short-staffed. Just before she returned to Brazil, Mitz's father asked, "Why not try diplomacy?" And that's exactly what she did.
Paola Amadei, Ambassador of Italy, first thought of entering the Foreign Service in school when she became interested in the formation of the European Union and the worldwide scope of the United Nations. As an idealistic young woman contemplating studies in International Law and Political Science, she began to dream of representing her country abroad. While finishing her masters, Paola concentrated on preparing for the extremely rigorous Foreign Service exams. The door was soon to open for a career to which Paola would whole-heartedly devote her talent, passion and unswerving idealism.
Greta Holtz, Ambassador of the United States of America, grew up with an innate desire to serve, to help people in meaningful ways. When she worked as an intern at the Pentagon, Greta found that she had a natural affinity with the ethos of the US Military with its strong traditions of honour, courage and valour.
After passing the exams, Greta served in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, Tunisia, Syria, and Turkey.
As a child, Dr Amal Mussa Hussain, Ambassador of Iraq, was determined to become a physician. Amal's parents, though of modest background, understood the value of education and steadfastly supported their daughter's ambition.
Not only did Amal succeed in becoming a physician, she rose to the post of Medical Advisor to the Prime Minister in Iraq's post-Saddam regime. In Iraq, Ambassadors, who must first be successful in Government or politics, as well as in rigorous examinations, are appointed after thorough scrutiny by parliament. Dr Amal was one of two women who won parliamentary approval and was posted abroad with the rank of Ambassador.
The path that led to Barbara Joziasse, Ambassador of the Netherlands' diplomatic career began early on in life. "When I was a child I had a keen interest in other countries and would go on my bicycle to the library in our small town and read everything I could find on this subject. At University, I specialised in Oriental Studies, including Arabic and Political Science. This led to a year of studying in Syria and at Oxford. Eventually I found myself applying for the Diplomatic Service and when I passed there was no looking back!'
Challenges for women ambassadors
All five Ambassadors agree that men and women have the same challenges in the job, but the personal aspect may be different. For Mitzi it was "being married and being a diplomat." Normally, men have the advantage of wives who work almost full-time managing the residence and helping with the omnipresent social obligations, while women Ambassadors do not have husbands likely to play such a role.
"But", said Mitzi, "this applies not only to women diplomats – all working women have to manage the household as well as their jobs."
It normally takes quite a few years for career diplomats to be eligible for an ambassadorial post since they must rise through several ranks beginning with Third Secretary. Paola, who has just been promoted to the rank of Ambassador Plenipotentiary,