Over the last few years, the wise Saudi leadership’s enlightening and positive role has become known far and wide, through the efforts of King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the engineer of Vision 2030 and the person reviving the sparks of a civilization that existed on this land hundreds of years ago.
One of the many important things the Vision covered was the increased attention to Saudi women, the limitations they face at present, their hopes and dreams for the future, and the necessity of empowering and supporting them to return to their positive and central role in all walks of life. The wise Saudi political leadership has spared no effort to enable and empower Saudi women in all its decisions and laws, and consequently, pushing them to play their roles as full-fledged citizens. The decisions and laws aim at promoting women’s rights, ensuring their participation in the job market, and leveraging their capacities, experiences, and high education; thus, putting them on par with other women around the world.
Why the renewed interest in the Saudi women renaissance now?
Surely, the deployment of the first group of female security guards at the Prophet’s Mosque pushed this topic to the surface again and showcased the dynamic taking place in the Kingdom with a lot of pride, especially since this plan falls under the Saudi leadership’s efforts to promote the role of women in the context of the socio-economic aspect of Vision 2030. But what really distinguishes this Vision?
Vision 2030 draws the future of Saudi Arabia on three foundations, all of which will see women as partners who support and complement the men in their journey. Here are the three pillars on which the Vision is founded:
First: A dynamic, non-static society that takes into consideration Jurisprudence on Emerging Issues and current changes; thus, keeping pace with developments without compromising on the constants of the religion and ummah.
Second: Sustainable, continuous, and stable development, as well as constant, strenuous efforts, especially as the world prepares to enter the post-globalization era.
Third: Indomitable ambitions of a young leadership that shoots for the stars; thus, highlighting the need for the collaborative efforts of all citizens, be they men or women.
Now, is the participation of Saudi women in the renaissance of the country and its people considered something new to their history, especially in the early years of Islam?
Historically, since the start of Islam, women played a role in the public sphere. Women lived through all the stages of the dawah, gave alms, and remained patient. They played key roles in social and humanitarian work and handled challenging tasks. They participated in wars, helped in the memorization of the Quran and the Prophetic Sunnah, did not refrain from entering the world of politics. What this means is that the sheet of dust that shrouded Saudi women’s history during some periods of austerity and rigor is now merely being brushed off.
Today, looking at Saudi Arabia’s public and private sectors, we find women in key roles: active members of municipal councils and chambers of commerce, competent members of shura councils and regional councils, and representatives of the Kingdom in international forums, such as the Kingdom’s permanent delegation to the UN.
The doors to all fields of work have been opened widely for women in the Kingdom, as were the paths to various leadership and administrative roles, with diplomatic roles on top of the list. In a remarkable timing coincidence, the Kingdom appointed its third female ambassador to a foreign country, Inas al-Shahwan, ambassador of the Kingdom to Sweden, at the same time that women in uniform were deployed at the Prophet’s Mosque. Before al-Shahwan, Princess Reema bint Bandar was appointed as the first female ambassador to the United States, followed by Amal al-Moallimi as ambassador to Norway in 2020.
In line with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s firm belief in the culture of innovation, especially in the economic field, we see the Saudi government attaching great importance to female business leadership by increasing the number of facilities and developing the microbusiness sector.
In this context, the experience of Saudi women in the national investment area is remarkable as women’s contributions to start-ups has increased in view of their possession of the skills and mechanisms they needed to progress and succeed.
In the last few years of the past decade, the Saudi Shura Council spared no effort to amend and change regulations to provide women with protection and economic opportunities so that they become an added value to future opportunities instead of a diminution thereof. And today, we see Saudi women thriving in the fields of technology, industrial intelligence, and outstanding productivity.
In conclusion, Vision 2030 has illuminated new paths for Saudi women, so they can move forward on the journey of female culture forged across centuries in the Arabian Peninsula.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.