In recent years, Saudi Arabia has made massive progress in many fields. But, one of the biggest achievements that I would like to celebrate today is the unleashing of the full potential of Saudi women.
The norm has been completely uprooted. Saudi women are living in an unprecedented time and can look forward to a bright future full of possibilities.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in an educated and open-minded family. My father encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and allowed me to study abroad, which provided me with opportunities to learn.
However, such an attitude was quite rare in Saudi Arabia when I was growing up. It was so uncommon that some of my extended family were surprised to see me going abroad, especially as a young, unmarried woman. I still remember my father’s response to the disapproving members of my family. He said: “Why not? I would have allowed my son to go.”
My father believed that as long as I was willing and able to do it, then I should be given that opportunity. Seeing a world outside of Saudi Arabia allowed me to learn from different cultures, but the way my parents raised me helped me remain grounded and true to myself.
With my own eyes, I saw the difference between living in Saudi Arabia and abroad, which allowed me to judge for myself what I preferred here and there.
The most important thing I learned was independence and the freedom to make choices that matter. I learned that independence is not a taboo, but a doorway to becoming a stronger version of yourself. If you lack a strong foundation, independence will shake you, but if your culture is instilled deep within your character, then it will cement it even further.
Today, many more women in Saudi Arabia have the opportunities that I was given years ago. There’s now very little difference between Saudi women living in the Kingdom and abroad. A newfound independence allows them to be competent and independent.
This change will raise generations of stronger, smarter, and wiser Saudi women. Whether they decide to be ambitious, career-oriented women or housewives, they will have the freedom and resources to fulfill either role to the best of their abilities. A Saudi woman now has the opportunity to study what she desires and to build a career for herself.
With the recent developments in our country, the standard of living is higher than ever. I can still see the differences between the lifestyle Saudi women can have at home and abroad. I believe that, today, we have an unparalleled quality of life mixed with the independence learned from foreign cultures.
When I imagine my daughters’ futures, I feel that the sky is the limit for what they can achieve here.
• Effat Alsaraj is a multimedia storyteller, a media advisor and an inventor.