The municipal elections that resulted in 21 Saudi women winning municipal council seats may seem trivial to some abroad, but it has a historic significance for the future of this country.
When women’s participation in the elections was announced, the altitude was that they would not make any gains as society was against it. But those with this notion were proved wrong.
Yes, there were many who opposed it. There were the self-appointed religious “leaders” who issued edicts against it and there were others who voiced their opposition through blaring loudspeakers and other forms of media. To all of them, the nation spoke and said: “enough!”. We have had enough of your obscurantism, enough of trying to run our lives according to “your customs and traditions”, enough of your actions that have made us a laughingstock and embarrassed us in front of others, enough of your domination of our personal lives.
Most Saudi women want to lead normal, healthy lives like their counterparts in other parts of the world. They want to be partners in progress. They want to contribute by being part of the decision making process in society. They do not want to be sitting still within the confines of four walls subjected to rulings by people with half of their intellect.
The government has focused on education for all. Today you have Saudi women spread across all segments of society and producing for the nation. They are educators, bankers, media people, scientists and doctors. They have overcome many obstacles to continue the journey which has not yet ended.
I am a critic and a person who does not mince words with regard to any transgression be it official or personal. However, I say very clearly that the government has encouraged and promoted women’s welfare and continues to do so. It knows that preventing any part of the population from participating in societal development will hamper progress. The women who ran for elections encountered several problems, including red tape, but they overcame all of these. Saudi women from all strata of society, from all regions of the Kingdom and both the young and the old, including at least one nonagenarian, came out to exercise their right to vote. Credit should also be given to the men who believed in their cause and supported them.
The Saudi woman is determined and progressive. She wants to lead and not to be led. She wants to play a constructive role. Society is evolving. There is no such thing as a woman’s place. This country belongs to all!
Nor are women going to be misled by ill-informed clergy who claim that they are inferior. In this month, precisely next Wednesday the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born. He was a great advocate of women’s rights. In fact, he worked for a woman. Let women read his farewell sermon and be encouraged. And to all the women in Saudi Arabia we say congratulations and more power to you!