Thursday, May 12, 2011

Saudi women striving to gain their legitimate rights

بسم الله الر حمن الر حيم

RIYADH: The late introduction of women’s education in Saudi Arabia has not limited their ability to make considerable gains and rights.

On the local front, Saudi women have been able to reach official decision-making positions in a number of ministries. Externally, they have occupied high executive posts in many international organizations.

The story of Saudi women striving to gain their legitimate rights in education and work, and to make their own decisions on personal affairs is an interesting one, characterized by long years of hard labor by pioneering women. Whether in big cities or remote villages, the battles are the same.

The first of these battles was in the field of education. During the 1920s, education for Saudi women was an “impossible dream.” The culture then was replete with the idea that girl’s education was “sedition” and a source of corruption. Moreover, society considered education of women as opposed to Islam, making its presence in the land of the two holy mosques unimaginable. Girls then had two directions to go to: either her husband's house or the grave.

A decision by King Saud changed the attitude of society toward the issue, resulting in the establishment of girls' schools in towns and villages starting from 1959. Society's rejection of girl's education began to weaken gradually. By the 1970s, those who objected to girl's education began to look at it as an honor and a duty.

This big gain — realized by granting Saudi women their right to education and its expansion to university and above, which came as the result of a long struggle — was the key to spectacular achievements made by Saudi women.

Saudi women entered all sectors of investment, joined work in various ministries, became diplomats and joined the fields of medicine, engineering, pharmacology and law. She also became a businesswoman. The Saudi woman has ultimately made a breakthrough in a society that is governed by traditions against the appearance of women.

Halima Muzaffar, a famous woman writer and literary critic, said that this long journey of struggle has not finished yet. “There are still many rights that Saudi women have not achieved. She cannot, for instance, run her own business. Despite her success in the field of journalism, not a single Saudi woman has climbed to the rank of a newspaper's editor in chief,” she said.

Muzaffar believes that each Saudi woman deserves the title of “struggler.” She said the battle of Saudi women for their absent rights ignored by the male-dominated society was a long and onerous one. “This society wants to open up for everything except for women,” she said.

Suhaila Zain Al-Abideen said the demands of Saudi women are numerous and diversified. “The guardianship should be lifted off the adult woman. The Saudi woman should have all her political rights enshrined in Islam. She has to be a member of all committees of the Shoura Council,” she said.

Al-Abideen called for the establishment of special family courts and also for women legal consultation departments adjacent to the courts. “There should be a law for personal affairs emanating from the Qur'an and Sunna to be codified by eminent scholars, including women. Saudi women should also be members of the Supreme Council of Scholars. Males who practice family violence should be severely punished,” she said.

Although Al-Abideen has made a long list of rights that have not yet been achieved, she said many successes were attained. She recalled that a number of Saudi women were well positioned locally and internationally. She mentioned in this regard Thuraya Obaid of the UN Population Fund and Lubna Olayan, who is a renowned investor in the international financial markets.
source :arab news

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