KSA celebrates women’s march toward progress

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Updated 15 December 2015

KSA celebrates women’s march toward progress

JEDDAH: As soon as news of some women candidates winning municipal council seats from Makkah region came out, there was celebration by voters on Sunday.

“Recognizing women’s role in decision making is a step toward equality,” said Ali, who congratulated Salma Al-Otaibi for her election to the council of the Madrakah region of Makkah.
The other two women who won the elections from Makkah region are Dr. Lama Al-Sulaiman, vice-chairman of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Rasha Al-Hifzi. They are among the 19 women who won in the historic elections.
For the first time in the history of Saudi Arabia, women were allowed to vote and stand as candidates in municipal elections on Saturday.
Such was the enthusiasm among women that Naela Mohammad Salih Nasief, a 94-year-old grandmother, was among the women as young as 19 years old who exercised their franchise.
Salih Nasief said she is an open-mind woman and that the election is only the beginning for Saudi women to get their rights.
Sahar Hassan Nasief, an activist and retired lecturer from King Abdullaziz University’s English and European languages department, said women comprise almost half of the population in the Kingdom, so participating and winning in the election allows them to talk about women’s rights and contribute in the development of the country.
She said that winning the election offers a good chance to women to raise their voice over issues such as divorce, marriage, women’s retirement and insurance.
Wafa Abu Hadi, a Saudi writer, said: “It reflects a broader change in Saudi Arabia regarding women’s rights and will stop those from commenting that the Kingdom is not giving rights to women.”
Maha Saeed Al-Faiz, a prominent Saudi fashion designer and businesswoman, said the participation of women in the elections and their victory will pave the way for Saudi women to play a bigger role in society. “They will be able to solve problems pertaining to women and suggest amendments to laws that are unfavorable for women. It will particularly help businesswomen.”
Municipal and Rural Affairs Minister Abdul Lateef Al-Asheikh, who is also the president of the General Committee for the Municipal Elections, said citizens’ interaction with the elections and their awareness about the importance of the councils ensured that they voted for the best candidates.
Even expatriates living in the Kingdom praised the participation of women in the elections. Jamil Rathore, secretary general of PJF; and Azmat Ali, head of the Global NRI group; said participation of women is great news and it’s a new beginning for Saudi women and a significant step toward having a more inclusive society. Even if women don’t win many seats, just going through this process is important as it will bring positive changes, he added.
Judea bin Nahar Al-Qahtani, spokesperson for the General Committee for Municipal Elections, said the citizens participated in elections with enthusiasm. “However, 235 candidates, nine of them women, were stopped from participating due to violations, and they were penalized with SR50,000 each.”

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 24 June 2018

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

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