Women teachers petition Saudi king for equality

Female teachers seek employment, salary equity


A group of Saudi teachers said they will present a petition to King Abdullah to demand the Ministry of Education give them employment equality, from job opportunities to wages.

Sarah Mohamed, co-founder of the Human Justice Campaign for Lifting Oppression against Female Teachers, said the campaign had collected more than 1000 signatures in a petition for functional equality.

"The aim of the campaign is for women teachers to get equal employment opportunities," Sarah told AlArabiya.net. “Some people criticized us for using the word 'equality,' but we ask for 'employment equality,' and we used the texts of international treaties that stipulate equal wages for both.”

Mohamed pointed out that the campaign had approached several ministries and local human rights organizations, but none expressed interest in their demands.

"We didn't want anyone to accuse us of overstep the relevant authorities," said Mohamed.

Equal rights for equal work

The petition demands that local laws regarding appointment and salary increases be enforced, particularly with regards to credit for years of service.

"Although the general manager of Women Teachers Affairs at the ministry said that years of employment are taken into consideration, this didn't happen," campaign spokeswoman and teacher of ten years, Ghaidaa Ahmed, told Orbit TV.

"We then found out that the civil service law does not include such an article,” she added. “Why then are we made to sign contracts stipulating overlooking years of employment?"

Lawyer and legal advisor Ahmed al-Maliki, who is in charge of a lawsuit filed by male and female teachers against the Ministry of Education, said that both men and women teachers suffer from appointments and salaries incommensurate with their experience and years of service.

However, Maliki noted that the injustices suffered by female teachers were greater because they had fewer rights and devalued positions but commensurate duties with their male colleagues. The case is still in court awaiting a verdict.

Accounts of discrimination

Ministry of Education spokesman Dr. Abul-Aziz al-Jarallah denied allegations of discrimination between men and women teachers.

Ahmed disagreed, however, and said that Jarallah’s promise to improve the working conditions of male teachers—and not female—was "the very essence of discrimination."

In a story Ghaidaa wrote about her suffering as a teacher, entitled
"Sorrows behind the Bars of Saudi Education," she described many forms of discrimination, in addition to gender, that teachers face.

"I was appointed in a village school 60 kilometers away from my house, and 10 years later I discovered that my original official appointment was close to my house, but that my job was given to someone else because of the connections she had,| described Ghaidaa. “The school principle never gave me the appointment letter."

The appointment of teachers to positions far away from their hometowns has been a hot topic in Saudi Arabia. The website of Saudi newspaper Al-Riyadh recently posted a special report on women teachers who, appointed to schools hundreds of kilometers away from their hometowns, met their untimely death on the road commuting to work.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).