Saudi Arabia is a conservative country where women are not allowed to drive, hold political office, mix with unrelated relatives, and travel without permission from a male guardian. However, King Abdullah, often labeled a wary reformer, issued a ground- breaking decree that indicates a better future for women in the country.
While reconstituting the Shura council (a council that advices the king on possible legislation), he decreed that women should always hold one fifth of the 150-seat assembly and named thirty women to the council.
Even though the women will still be segregated from the men and will face pressure from conservative members of the council, many observers and commentators see this measure as a huge stride forward. It will act as a precursor to women voting in 2014. Furthermore, it will pave the way for women candidates in the 2015 municipal elections.
This recent reform is one of many that authorities have put in place. Since November 2012, a justice ministry directive allows women with a law degree and three years of legal experience to plead cases in court.
Women are also receiving help from unlikely quarters to rectify a woeful scenario where women are under- represented in the work force. Sixty percent of those who graduate from universities in Saudi Arabia are women. But only 17% of them are actually in the job market. Seeing his sister struggle to find employment, Khalid AlKhudair, founded Glowork — the country’s first all-women’s online recruitment company. Having someone like AlKhudair champion the cause of women promises to change the hostile climate for women.
Praise God for the changes that are happening in the ultra-conservative country of Saudi Arabia (The Bible, James 1:17).