LONDON: Abeer Mishkhas
Published — Wednesday 16 January 2013
Last update 18 January 2013 2:44 pm
The 30 newly appointed women on the Shoura Council must work hard to prove that women have the right to serve in such top positions and can serve the nation, said Dr. Thuraya Obaid, one of the new members.
Obaid served as Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund and an Under-Secretary General of the United Nations from 2000 to 2010.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Arab News’ sister publication, Obaid said that all the women appointees are highly educated and have represented the country internationally.
“It is a step forward for women and the whole country. We were hoping for this. King Abdullah has always had a vision for the role of women and their presence in important positions, especially on the Shoura Council. I think it is also very important on the international level; Saudi Arabia can say to the world that it has women serving in advisory positions that have links to decision makers in the country.”
Analysts have lauded the decision to appoint women to the council as historically equivalent to opening the first schools for girls in the 1960s.
Obaid stressed that “appointing women to the Shoura is as important as all the steps that have been taken to open new doors for women including education, creating work opportunities and processing civil laws. Each of these steps is an advanced one that strengthens women’s place and contribution in society.”
Obaid added that the appointments carry a set of challenges and responsibilities. “The biggest challenge for us is that we have to work hard because there will be high expectations and people waiting to see the results and success of our efforts. We have to work and deliver what is expected of us. The other challenge will be to face the doubters. There are those who do not approve of women being on the Shoura Council. We have to prove to them that our presence on the Council is a contribution to society.”
The third and biggest challenge “is to show society that women are citizens with rights and duties to fulfill, and that they can perform their roles to serve their king and country.”
Obaid stressed the “advisory” nature of their roles. “At the end of the day, it is an advisory council; it gives advice and suggestions and provides studies for the different government offices. The decision to implement the advice is left with them.”
She said the men and women members should complement each other. “Any decision or discussion that takes place in the Council is for all the members. We hope that our male colleagues will also put forward their vision especially on social issues.”
Obaid said that her priorities are related to her career over the years. “My area of expertise and my life’s work has been about social issues. There has to be an interest in women and on social issues such as jobs for youth, education and health.”