A call to promote the empowerment of Saudi women

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Civil Service has announced an increase in the percentage of women employed in higher positions, as represented by grade 11, from the current 1.27 percent to 5 percent by 2020, which is four times the current percentage. This development is part of the new transformation plan to empower women and support their role in leadership positions.

The empowerment of women in Saudi Arabia has come a long way. Progressive opinion leaders are speaking out against those who oppose the integration of women into the workforce. They continue to address social norms that discriminate against women and urge decision makers to face on-the-ground realities.

There is a long history in advanced societies of many organizations working to support women so that they can reach decision-making positions. Saudi officials today are looking at the experience of others and are keen to apply strategies that have provided women the opportunity to play a bigger role in public office.

Many are optimistic that Saudi Vision 2030 can put an end to gender-based discrimination and eliminate social barriers that inhibit the implementation of legislative and constitutional amendments necessary to accelerate the empowerment of Saudi women and enhance their legal status.

Saudi officials today are looking at the experience of others and are keen to apply strategies that have provided women the opportunity to play a bigger role in public office

Samar Fatany

Policymakers focus on researching and identifying women with potential. Indeed, if given the opportunity and the proper training, qualified women can play an important role in shaping public policy. They can likewise assist in providing a more moderate environment to fight extremism and sectarianism.

Progressive women who advocate modernity are no longer a minority. Today there are many people who do not support gender segregation policies and consider driving a basic human right for women. Of great importance is the need to expose the imposed non-religious values, trends and traditions that discriminate against women, marginalize their role and deny them the rights that Islam guarantees them.

Cry for change

The call to support the empowerment of women in Saudi society is a cry for change. In the past, civil society did not play an effective role in adopting women’s issues and presenting an accurate picture of their problems. Women advocates failed to highlight their challenges to officials to help decision-makers set the right course. Today, there are initiatives to mobilize the national base toward reform. The decision by the Ministry of Civil Service to increase the percentage of women employed in higher positions is a positive sign for change.

The rigid religious practices adopted by a significant segment of Saudi women and their hardline religious positions have also harmed society and have earned Saudi women the disdain of many women worldwide, even women from Arab and Muslim countries. The global image of Saudi society remains negative. The hardline religious position that is discriminatory toward women has compromised the role of Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Muslim world.

The support of Custodian of King Salman for Vision 2030 advocating the empowerment of women has boosted the morale of many Saudis today. However, the success of the vision will depend on public support to implement the transformation plans with regard to the empowerment of women. As long as a large segment of society treats women as minors and undermines their capabilities, progress will be limited and the country will continue to lag behind.

Shaping the domestic debate toward positive attitudes and global thinking is a basis for a successful transformation. Saudi women should be part of the national debate for change; their positive contributions can speed up the pace of reform. Reformers will not succeed and the country will not develop without changing the extremist mindset and negative attitudes toward the position of women in our society.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on July 16, 2016.
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.”

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:51 - GMT 06:51
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