The involvement of women in the Saudi Shura Council is certainly a historic milestone in the journey towards gender equality and female empowerment in the Kingdom. Almost 50 years ago, the Saudi woman was prohibited from receiving a basic elementary education in her country and now she sits among her male counterparts in its consultative assembly as an adviser to the governing body.
Despite some of the cynical remarks spread by the Western media in effort to undermine this event, I believe that such a revolutionary leap should be embraced and celebrated. Not only does this mean that the voices and rights of women will be fully heard and acknowledged in the Kingdom, but also that the Saudi society is ready to accept and see women function as leaders.
As members, our role is not circumscribed to issues pertaining to the woman and her family; rather we will be actively involved in raising and discussing issues that relate to the Saudi society as a whole. Additionally, our diverse academic and professional backgrounds as female members of the council will allow us to offer fresh perspectives and insight into the important consulting and decision-making processes.
(Khawla Al Kuraya was recently appointed as a member of the previously all-Male Saudi Shura Council in a historic decision by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. She is a distinguished physician-scientist and the Director of the Research Centre at King Fahad National Centre for Children’s Cancer, King Faisal Specialist Hospital (KFSH) in Riyadh. Dr Al Kuraya is a leader in the field of genomic cancer research. Dr. Al Kuraya is the first Saudi female recipient of the prestigious “First Rank King Abdulaziz Medal” for her pioneering initiatives.)