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Some Saudi women are wedded to their careers

For most Saudi women the thought of marriage conjures up fairy tale images reminiscent of childhood dreams of becoming a princess for a day, wearing the perfect dress, being drenched in jewels and then whisked away by Prince Charming.
However for some the thought of being wed is nothing short of a nightmare. An increasing number of Saudi women would rather marry their career than a husband.
“I have decided not to get married and have chosen my career because I do not agree with the way many Saudi women are treated by their husbands,” said Rowia Howaish, a 30-year-old Saudi woman who works in a government hospital in Jeddah.
Howaish said she had attempted to get married a few years ago, but did not go through with it due to her fiancé's behavior.
“Even before we were officially engaged he had already begun talking to me about giving him my pay check and had discussed with me about letting him use my credit cards. Due to this type of behavior it was apparent that he was only interested in money and in being a control freak. This really scared me,” she admitted, adding that this was the primary factor that led to her decision to remain devoted only to her career.
However, for some women opting out of traditional matrimony, pure job satisfaction and not social issues are the main reason they remain unwed.
“I have decided not to get married because I am already in love…with my job,” said 26-year-old Saudi marketer Samia Al-Ahmedi.
“Because I am so happy and satisfied with my position at work and at home, I do not see any reason to rush into marriage and become tied down,” Al-Ahmedi said.
She added that she also feels that through her career she has been given the chance to eradicate social stereotypes about Saudi women and that working her way up the career ladder is her current aim.
“I guess that part of me sees getting married as an obstacle and that I would not be satisfied with splitting myself between my job and family life because I prefer to give 100% of my energy to one aspect in life,” Al-Ahmedi clarified.
Still, some women have said that they are aware of the staggering divorce rate in the Kingdom and the devastating effects it can have on a family.
“I have seen the trauma that divorce can have on innocent children, who are caught in the middle of a failed relationship,” said Noura Al-Madani, a primary teacher at a government school in Jeddah.
She added that in many cases, fathers typically use their children as pawns in an attempt to hurt and control their mother after divorce.
“While the ex-wives are being labeled ‘divorced women’, which is a negative social stigma in Saudi Arabia, ex-husbands often times go on with their lives.
“They get remarried and drag their ex-wife and children through legal torture after divorcing for sometimes no real reason at all,” Al-Madani said.
She explained that rather than putting herself into a possibly negative position, she has decided to put her efforts into reaping the rewards of teaching and caring about her students each day.
Although it remains a personal choice, the question that still remains is what is causing the rising trend of women shunning marriage.
"I think the main reason is that higher financial burdens nowadays are causing more stress on families and creating interpersonal and psychological disturbances such as depression and anger that can eventually lead to marital discord and evolve in divorce.
The pressure is primarily being put on women, which could be motivating them to remain single," said Dr. Suhail Abdulhameed Khan, a psychiatry consultant and director of the Jeddah Psychiatric Hospital, adding that if such behavior is witnessed, especially by children, it could eventually lead to the development of phobias concerning marriage.
Khan said that the change in social roles concerning Saudi women over the last two decades is also a major factor.
"Currently more women are employed in high-ranking positions through the implementation of human rights bodies and increased women's rights in the Kingdom. This has allowed them more freedom and the ability to choose their careers over marriage, which was simply not an option for Saudi women in the past," he concluded.
According to a study released in February this year by the Kingdom’s Ministry of Social Affairs, the divorce rate in 2011 increased by 35 percent, making Saudi Arabia’s figure higher than the world average of 18-22 percent and the second-highest rate in the world.

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