The Women’s History Month is celebrated annually, and this year it was slated for March 2019. The Atlanta City Council, in line with this year’s celebrations, recognized the women of Atlanta who contributed to the success and well-being of the community at different levels.
What stood out is the community’s appreciation of the role played by women in the American society. In contrast, women in Saudi Arabia live under the spotlight of their male counterparts throughout their lives. As is the law, a woman lives under the guardianship of the male members of her family. These include grandfathers, fathers, uncles, cousins and even brothers, who have the right to punish them for breaking or bending the law.
Although the country is making progress in enhancing the rights of women, Saudi Arabia is years away from catching up with other nations in women empowerment. Just last year in 2018, the law changed so that a driver’s licence can be issued to women in Saudi Arabia.
It was a step in the right direction in liberating women as it boosted
their employment options and independence. However, as a country, a lot more needs to be done to ensure that women feel empowered to drive the policies of the country.
Through the guardianship system, women are reduced to babies for all their lives. For instance, if one wants to learn how to drive, but their husbands objected, then such have no option but to oblige. This is just one of the many ways in which Arabia’s women are deprived of their freedoms. Issues ranging from forced marriage, access to higher education, freedom of choice and participation in sporting activities are the most significant in the current setting. I believe that with informative lobbying and civic education, the Arabian society will ultimately celebrate the girl child as it does the boy child. It is my dream that in the near future women will have the freedom to raise their families after separation, or death of a partner. It is this form of empowerment that triggers revolutions leading to complete overhaul of bad systems.
Differences in leadership systems, religious beliefs and the culture of a people strongly influence the pace at which changes are implemented. While America is an old democracy, characterized by strong systems that protect the rights of all, including illegal immigrants, Saudi Arabia on the other hand is a kingdom ruled by a King and his council in accordance with the Islamic practices. As a result, changes in Saudi Arabia are only implemented with the consent of the leadership that does not rely on the people to stay in power. The journey to emancipating the Saudi Arabian woman, therefore, will be more challenging and probably longer.
Despite all the negativity, I applaud King Salman for taking bold steps in liberating the Saudi Arabian woman. Gestures like allowing women to access health and government services without their guardians’ consent are a sign of the efforts the government is putting in place to fast-track its policies to catch up with the developed countries. Therefore, as Atlanta City Council, and other bodies celebrate the women in their countries’ history, I applaud the Saudi
Arabian woman for achieving a lot in such a short time. Although a lot more needs to be done, the writing is already on the wall – It is just a matter of time before she gets liberated. We shall not relent in this fight, as Albert Einstein once said, “Freedom, in any case, is only possible by constantly struggling for it”.