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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.”

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