Women not only constitute half of Saudi society but they are also the driving force behind the kingdom’s future development as a 21st-century society. The royal decree issued by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to appoint 30 highly educated Saudi women to the Shoura Council (consultative assembly) and to ensure women make up at least 20 percent of the Council in the future is a key turning point in the history of the kingdom. A million thanks for this wonderful outstanding step, which is an essential move toward galvanizing the role of Saudi women in society.
Now Saudi Arabia takes fourth place in the Arab region in terms of women’s political participation in Parliament.
Today, King Abdullah’s determination is geared toward empowering women not only socially and economically, but also politically, while boosting their role in mainstream Saudi national life. He is addressing the traditional gender inequalities through the adoption of a national agenda favorable to a greater role for women in politics. By opening new opportunities for them in the Shoura Council, he is giving women the tools they need to lead in the decision-making process. Moreover, by supporting and promoting Saudi women’s rights, he is establishing a foundation of equal rights and equal opportunities for men and women in general and in particular at the higher executive level.
The crucial step taken by King Abdullah is a natural reinforcement of the true spirit of Islam.
In Islam, women are entitled to the same freedom of expression as men. Women participated in serious discussions with the Prophet (May peace be upon him) and other Muslim leaders. Islam also granted women the right to participate in political affairs and to hold government positions. Aisha, the Prophet’s wife, participated in political events after the death of the Prophet and became a political leader. And there are several examples in Islamic history of prominent women who became political leaders such as Arwa Bint Ahmad Al Sulaihiyyah, queen of Yemen, Safwat Al Mulk, queen of Damascus, Safiya Khatoun, queen of Aleppo, and Shajarat Al Durr, queen of Egypt.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) recognises the right of every person to take part in the government of his or her country. It states that the equal access of men and women to power, decision-making and leadership at all levels is vital for the proper functioning of their country.
More than eight years ago, while he was still crown prince, King Abdullah asserted that the status of women would not be undermined or marginalised vis-à-vis their vital role in national development.
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He declared: “When we talk about the comprehensive development that our country is witnessing, we cannot ignore the role of Saudi women and their participation in this development. The productive role of women has been a definite result of the great investment that the country has dedicated to the field of education for all of its citizens, men and women. As a result, Saudi women have been able to earn the highest educational credentials, which have enabled them to work diligently in different fields. Saudi women have proven their ability to handle responsibilities with great success, whether through their principal duty as mothers, or as professionals. We look forward to women acquiring a major role in a way that will promote the interests of the nation on the basis of the Sharia.”
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