The participation of women in the Shoura Council will end an era of discrimination against women and promote their integration into the political and social process. Thirty distinguished, well-qualified women with advanced degrees have at last been nominated to become official members of the Shoura Council with the same rights as their male counterparts. Hopefully they will have enough confidence to stand up for the rights of the underprivileged and will be able to effectively address the many issues that need urgent attention to help our nation prosper and develop.
As officials of the advisory body that reports directly to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, they are expected to boldly address the challenges facing the Kingdom today and come up with recommendations for new policies and scientific solutions to create a better environment for our fast-growing younger generation, and to deal with unemployment, housing, transportation, health services and many other issues that are keeping us behind the more advanced countries of the world.
Previously the council had 12 women advisers who were only consulted on matters related to women, families and children and their presence was not very effective. Today, the public expects much more from the new members who will have equal rights to engage in transparent debates with their male counterparts in the Council.
Gender segregation in the Council was a topic of public debate. Many professional women view this policy as a form of discrimination and they feared that such a rigid policy would limit their role in the CouncilSamar Fatany
The participation of women in the Shoura faces many challenges. Gender segregation in the Council was a topic of public debate. Many professional women view this policy as a form of discrimination and they feared that such a rigid policy would limit their role in the Council. When the decision to appoint women to the Shoura Council was announced, it was not clear how they would enter the building and where they would be accommodated in the chamber. The accomplished and well-qualified women would not have appreciated screens being put up to keep them apart from the men. Neither would they have been comfortable with the idea of conducting debate via an internal communication system.
However, to our great relief the government has made it clear that women Shoura members will truly have the same rights as their male colleagues. They will enter through the main lobby and not a back door, and they will be assigned seats in the same chamber with their male counterparts. However, they will have separate offices and a staff of women employees will be assigned to facilitate an adequate segregated work environment.
High expectationsThe women in the Shoura Council will be in a position to influence recommendations that are submitted directly to King Abdullah. It remains to be seen how effective they will be. The chosen experts have been honored with this post to serve the interests of all citizens. They have our trust and our expectations are high. We urge them to make a difference and not to let us down.
* [This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Jan. 19, 2013.][http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20130119149807]
(Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”)