Being one of the newly appointed women in the Saudi Shura council, Thuraya Obaid believes that any achievements to Saudi women rights cannot be accomplished without the support of their male counterparts in the council.
“We will not be able to succeed in endorsing recommendations that would ensure the rights of women and facilitate their lives, without the support of our brothers in the (Shura) Council,” Obaid told the Saudi Gazette.
With 35 years of experience in the U.N., Obaid ensured that the views and experience of Saudi women will to the council’s discussions and contribute to the society’s development.
“On issues that already exist and new issues to come, the perspective of women is integral to discussions. Whatever impacts women impacts men as well, being members of the same family. We should not view women’s issues in isolation from the main progress of society,” she added.
As a Shura council member, Obaid sees that what women are calling for is every Saudi citizen’s demand.
“There are key issues such as the employment of young people, who constitute 60 percent of the population under the age of 30, and income for households headed by women. We need to have our brothers involved in discussions and the formulation of recommendations because we all form one unit of citizens of our country,” Obaid added.
“Hopefully we will be able to produce recommendations that are balanced and relevant and which fit within the context of our society and the directions of King Abdullah.”
Issues related to women and youth concern Obaid the most, as she believes that “what we invest in the youth now is what society will reap now and in the future.”
“There are many events and programs happening when it comes to youth but they need to be fine-tuned and strategic. We have to look at the problems concerning youth, such as employment, income and the educational context and whether it’s effective to give them skills that allow them to compete in the market.”
Bringing up an issue that was the center of a debate in the kingdom recently, Obaid said she was not against women working as sellers. The issue was brought up last December, when about 200 religious figures accused Minister of Labor Adel Fakeih of executing a “Westernization” plan when he permitted women from working in lingerie shops.
As she referred to Saudi women, Obaid said, “Are they willing to work in unpopular sectors? This is the key. But, whenever I go to the malls and I see women working there selling women’s items, I tell them ‘bravo, bravo’ keep on working, do your job well and take care of yourselves.
“I know there are some weaknesses and they can be corrected as the Minister of Labor had said. But ensuring livelihood for women who support themselves or their families is essential. I think that this message of support is important to raise their morale and give them courage, Insha’Allah.
“We all know that Saudi Arabia is built by evolution — step by step and (we have) to be sure that the step is strong, then move on.”
Click here to view original interview with Saudi Gazette.