quotes There is no more powerful figure than woman

11 March 2021
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Updated 11 March 2021

There is no more powerful figure than woman

From the height of her still young years, Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said: “When God created man and woman, he was thinking, ‘Who shall I give the power to, to give birth to the next human being?’ And God chose woman. And this is the big evidence that women are powerful.”

Let us consider the Saudi Arabian woman and how her role has evolved over the past century. At the birth of our country, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in 1932, women retained a very powerful role, albeit largely restricted to that of uncontested ruler of the home. The household was hers and its decisions belonged to her, as did its duties, which in the 1930s filled almost every waking hour.

Our poetry and the Qur’an nonetheless affirmed the importance and the power of women, not least by including an entire surah called Al-Nisa, the woman— there is no such surah pertaining exclusively to men. Let us not forget also that the Prophet’s wife herself was known as a shrewd businesswoman and that, unlike any other large city in the world, Saudi Arabia’s second-largest city, Jeddah, carries the consequential name of “grandmother.”

I would like to emphasize here that there is no such thing as giving women rights, for those rights are equal and intrinsic in every human being at birth. Sadly, it is only the taking away of those rights that has existed, and in Saudi Arabia women could not drive, open bank accounts or even travel without a male guardian’s permission. Just imagine the humiliation of a woman depending on the young punk she raised to afford her permission to travel if her husband is no longer present.

I am happy to say that on all these points today’s leadership has lifted the long-extant restrictions. We are going through a guided evolution in which we are no longer waiting for change to come but actually rectifying laws in the sense of equality.

• Hassan bin Youssef Yassin worked with Saudi petroleum ministers Abdullah Tariki and Ahmed Zaki Yamani from 1959 to 1967. He headed the Saudi Information Office in Washington, DC from 1972 to 1981, and served with the Arab League observer delegation to the UN from 1981 to 1983.