Many Saudi women have resorted to selling tissues on the streets to provide for their families, Al-Eqtisadiah daily reported.
This trade was usually the domain of expatriate children at traffic signals, but has now become a daily routine for many Saudi women.
Such women sit along streets for more than eight hours a day in the scorching heat, freezing cold and other weather conditions because they have no other source of income.
Along King Abdullah Road, Um Nayef, a Saudi woman in her 40s, said she has seven children to support.
Her husband has abandoned her and his children and is not providing for them.
Her relatives have also neglected her and her only option was to sell paper tissues along streets.
“This activity does not provide me with enough income but it has at least allowed me to stop asking people for money and assistance.”
She noted that many, however, do offer assistance when they learn of her situation.
Um Nayef pointed out that she does not have the money to deal with other products and selling tissues provided her with the best solution due to their low cost.
Um Abdullah, a Saudi woman in her 30s, said her income is around SR50 a day and she sells paper tissues throughout the day.
She leaves her selling place before sundown because she is afraid of the dark.
“There are many who sympathize with me and offer extra money for the tissues that is enough to support my family for a few days.”
Um Safyah said her husband has abandoned her and their five daughters, while she is illiterate and could not find a job.
She receives food from a charitable organization but claimed that it is not enough for her children.
“I also could not obtain social security payments because I am married and such benefits are only for widows and divorced women,” she said.
Dr. Majeedah Al-Najem, assistant professor of social studies at King Saud University, defined poverty as the inability to meet basic living costs.
She said that there are 1.2 billion people worldwide whose income is less than one dollar a day.
She added women on limited incomes outnumber men living in the same conditions by a ratio of 2.5 to 1.
"Poor families supported mainly by women are 30 percent more than those supported by men," she said.
She pointed out that this is due to the limited opportunities available for women compared to men, especially during social and economic crises.
Al-Najem noted that among Arab countries, the UAE has less poor women than men, 83 for every 100 poor men.
"In the Kingdom, Kuwait, Sudan, and Oman there are between 120 to 160 poor women for every 100 poor men and in Syria that number is 271 poor women," she said.
She asked for a review of social security system payments and beneficiaries of the system.
Al-Najem believed social security payments should take into consideration the cost of living.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on January 30.