This year we celebrate a new image of a more modern Saudi woman - capable, educated and a contributing member to her family and society at large .
Last year the decision to allow the full participation of women in nation building was a bold step in the right direction. The country is witnessing a new beginning that could usher in positive attitudes and create a healthier environment, where children will have the opportunity to grow in an atmosphere of hope and enlightenment.
Negative attitudes exist against women as a result of the influence of some hardliners who continue to impose their distorted Islamic rulings and use rigid interpretations of Islamic concepts to support their baseless ideas. Unfortunately, there is still a large segment of society which believes that women are incapable of playing a role in nation building and should remain marginalized.
However, the presence of women in the Shura Council can now effect changes and allow them to call for new policies in order to radically improve the status of women in our society. The appointment of women to the Shura and municipal councils will enable them to confront the challenges that have hindered their progress. Chief among these are: the reluctance to support women in leadership positions and the “legal guardianship” rule.
The world is moving at a very fast pace, and there are many challenges facing the average Saudi family; most obvious of all is the high cost of livingSamar Fatany
Saudi women in leadership positions today hope to promote the activities of civil society. They continue to address social norms that discriminate against women and they continue to influence decision makers to face on-the-ground realities.
The role of women in the Shura Council is not merely an honorary one. They have an advisory role and they must use it to influence all government departments to show more respect for the participation of women as experts and opinion leaders . They represent the whole society and not just the marginalized half of the Saudi population. They now have a responsibility to speak for the rights of all citizens in every sphere of national life and a duty to extend professional advice to achieve social reforms and economic prosperity for all.
Social activists believe that the challenges facing women are overwhelming. Prominent columnists, for example Aziza Almanie, Badria Albishr, Fawzia Albakr, Hatoon Alfassi and Samar Almigrin, have written many articles about social impediments and the lack of basic requirements for a better life. In particular they highlight public transportation, job opportunities, health services and the discrimination against women in the workplace. Today, women members of the Shura can accelerate the process and provide the next generation of women with more opportunities for a better future.
In Saudi Arabia, the social debate between religious scholars and reformers continues to address the current political and civil laws that are applied to govern the lives and roles of women in society. There are still many laws and regulations that discriminate against women based on the assumption that women are inferior; therefore, they should never be allowed to lead or hold public office - or even have a say in decisions that affect their lives.
We live in the 21st century, and technological and industrial advancements have revolutionized our way of living. The world is moving at a very fast pace, and there are many challenges facing the average Saudi family; most obvious of all is the high cost of living. Economic necessities and social responsibilities toward our children dictate that the majority of mothers earn a living in order to provide for their families and share in the expenses to afford a life of dignity and comfort.
Economists affirm that investment in women is the most effective means to eliminate poverty. Women need more job opportunities and better wages to survive and support themselves and their families. When women suffer, whole families suffer. We need to bring harmony and justice to the Saudi family in order to build a progressive, healthy society. We need to bring stability to Saudi families and create a happy and less stressful environment in all Saudi homes.
The success of distinguished women has undoubtedly boosted the morale of those who were once abused and marginalized. There are some who have reached leadership positions and many others who have an obligation to act as role models for future generations. Women doctors, scientists and researchers have every reason to celebrate this year their recognized contributions toward a socially, politically and economically progressive Saudi Arabia.
Women in leadership positions can finally begin to address women’s affairs and concerns. They are now able to influence new laws, call for new national gender policies and push for the establishment of institutions to implement them. These women have a responsibility to identify and reject laws and regulations that are incompatible with women’s needs in today’s world. As official members of the Shura Council, they can facilitate the participation of qualified and professional women in governmental and managerial positions thus allowing them to have a say in decisions that affect their lives and the lives of their children.
The task ahead is still very challenging. Women in decision-making positions have an obligation to live up to the expectations of both the king and the whole country.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Jan. 3, 2013.
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.”SHOW MORE