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How women can gain a greater presence in Saudi society

The wisdom of strong and educated women could bridge the gap between Saudi Arabia and the world

Samar Fatany

Published: Updated:

In a recent interview for Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ekhbariya news channel, business consultant Fatin Bundagji stated that policies that limit the contribution of women in the business community stand in the way of progress and economic prosperity in Saudi Arabia today.

Indeed the biggest challenge that is facing our nation today is the participation of women in national development.

We need more women experts like Fatin to be vocal in the media and on talk shows and active on social media to criticize policies and social norms that harm the economy and are detrimental to progress.

Issues like the participation of women in municipal voting, job opportunities and judicial restrictions should be addressed in a serious and urgent manner by women who are experts in the field.

Hardliners still insist on exerting control over the lives of women and resist initiatives to recognize their achievements and contributions toward nation-building.

It is time for women to boldly defy this hardline position that hampers their determination to excel and serve their nation.

Fundamentalists continue to exercise a powerful influence over policy-making and social norms. The absence of women’s voices in the decision-making process encourages extremism and promotes an intolerant society.

The stronger and more assertive voices of women can improve their position and increase their chances to contribute as qualified experts and professionals in the development of the nation.

There should be louder demands from women for laws that are based on the principle of equality in order to protect the rights of women employees creating a healthier and more productive work environment.

The state can no longer afford to marginalize the role of 50 percent of the population that includes highly educated and qualified citizens.

The government has taken steps toward recognizing the role of women in society; however, women have not been vocal enough in their demands for a change in the status quo that is still discriminating and unjust.

Women today constitute an important segment of the population and they should have a say in decisions that affect their lives and the future of their children.

The expertise of women can contribute to a better national strategy addressing economic and cultural challenges. Unemployment, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, emotional blackmail and the disrespectful attitude that is prevalent in some segments of Saudi society are major issues of concern.

The prosperity of the country should be the duty of all citizens, men and women alike. The absence of women policy-makers allows hardline male decision-makers to impose anti-women rules that are discriminatory and detrimental to national prosperity.

According to Saudi social scientists, the reasons behind the exploitation of women by husbands and guardians are mainly due to the absence of deterrent laws or the failure to implement those laws which do exist.

A major religious encounter with modernity

The voices of women should be allowed to reach across our borders. The wisdom of strong and educated women could bridge the gap between Saudi Arabia and the world.

The rigid image of Saudi women has harmed the position of Muslims everywhere. It has compromised the role of Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Muslim world.

The world needs to hear strong statements from modern professional women leaders in our country condemning extremism, violence and sectarianism and declaring the position of women on controversial global issues.

The empowerment of women remains a major religious encounter with modernity. Women must lead a stronger social and religious debate and engage religious scholars and reformers to address the current political and civil laws that marginalize their role in society.

The continued confrontation between tradition and modernity is a threat to the security and economic prosperity of Saudi Arabia.

Louder voices of women can be a positive force to influence change and reverse the negative intolerant attitude that dominates certain segments of our society.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on August 8, 2015.

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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.”

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.