Saudi women looking forward to municipal elections

Saudi women looking forward to municipal elections
Updated 26 March 2015
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Saudi women looking forward to municipal elections

Saudi women looking forward to municipal elections

Saudi women have progressed significantly during the past few years and have occupied many important positions on the way, from undersecretary at the Education Ministry to membership of the chambers of commerce and the Shoura Council.
Saudi women are now preparing to enter into a new sphere of politics and serving the country by participating in municipal elections for the first time in the history of the Kingdom.
Under a new partnership, called the Baladi Initiative, training workshops will be conducted to strengthen women’s participation in municipal council activities.
Hatoon Al-Fassi, the general coordinator of the Baladi Initiative, told local newspapers that the workshops — a total of 13 will be held across the Kingdom — will involve many levels such as the election campaigns and training and preparations for elections beginning in 2016.
“We need to train voters and candidates on how to run an election campaign,” she said. “Our numbers are not enough to cover the whole Kingdom,” she said.
Al-Fassi said that in the first phase of the project, trainers come in from other countries in the Arab world, such as Lebanon, Jordan and the United Nations. In the second phase, she noted, Saudi female participants will be trained to become trainers themselves.
Speaking on the role of municipal councils after the election process and holding them accountable, and how women can contribute and be active in the development of their local communities, Al-Fassi said: “The Baladi Initiative has already defined the identity of such councils and their social, political and cultural rights.”
The Baladi Initiative, she explained, seeks to contribute to the formation of women’s committees affiliated with the government.
Nora Al-Soyan, a training supervisor in Riyadh and member of the initiative, said that the Al Baladi Initiative faced difficulties when it was first launched.
“It wasn’t easy for Saudi women to enter this new process and experience in the first place,” she said.
“We, therefore, had to find a suitable location to hold the workshops as an NGO because the first question we’ve been asked is about the official agency we were affiliated with.”
She said the workshops were excellent because women’s participation in the political process was strong and extensive despite the unfair stereotypical image of Saudi women in general, inside and outside the Kingdom.
The other hardships the campaign faced involved the time dedicated by women to participate in the workshop as the majority of them are either in academia, business or hold other jobs.
Fatima Ateef, another campaign coordinator in Jazan, said it is very important that Saudi women be involved in the election process.
“It is a necessity and not a luxury. Women’s participation does not mean that she should give up and cancel her Islamic identity, as some sees.”
The female element, she pointed out, will drive the wheel of development forward in accordance with Islamic law and regulations.
“Here, in Jazan, women are very optimistic about the forthcoming municipal elections because we already have the support of Jazan Gov. Prince Mohammed bin Nasser,” said Ateef.
One of the workshop participants, Latifa Al-Airee, said she is very optimistic about the elections which will open many doors for Saudi women.
Another participant, Latifa Al-Maiuf, agreed. “My experience in the banking sector and administrational training confirms my vision that Saudi women can succeed and excel in any field they believe in,” she said.