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International Women’s Day: Saudi Women can now drive trains

King Abdulaziz Foundation launches an enrichment initiative for Saudi women

In a new step to enable Saudi women to work in new and emerging fields in the labor market, Saudi Arabia recently announced the opening of recruitment for train driving jobs, which is identified as 30 job opportunities for women who have not previously worked in the country.

These offered jobs come within the expansion of job opportunities in the Al-Haramain train project, which links the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, passing through Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City.

Last February, the Spanish company “Renvi”, one of the companies operating the train, revealed that it had received about 28,000 applications since it was announced last January, opening the door to receiving applications for employment in the profession dominated by men in many countries of the world.

The ages of all contestants for the position of a train driver range between 22 and 30 years, which is the age set by the company, in addition to other conditions such as the level of English language.

Not surprisingly

Some see that the new announcement of jobs in the field of driving trains for Saudi women is not surprising and is not considered remarkable, especially since women today work in all fields within the country.

The general orientation of the Saudi government is not to discriminate between women and men in the fields of work, so that all jobs are available to both sexes, with the same benefits and salaries.” Saudi women have been able to prove their competence in all fields.

 Today, Saudi women work in the military and security sectors, as well as in the field of aviation, in leadership positions, government agencies, and the private sector.

In the same context, Renfe said in a statement on its website that “more than half of the applicants passed the first stage online test, in which the applicants’ academic level and English language skills were assessed.”

The company indicated that it will liquidate the rest of the applications by the middle of this month, before selecting the winners who will undergo a year-long training program in the city of Jeddah, in which they will receive a wage of four thousand riyals (about 1066 dollars) before it doubles with the practice of their work. officially.

The salary of train drivers is equal to that of their future male colleagues, which is an incentive for them to compete and join more women interested in this profession or looking for job opportunities in Saudi Arabia. “.

Saudi Arabia has witnessed wide and rapid economic and social changes, especially about the empowerment of women and raising the rates of their participation in the fields of public life since Riyadh announced Vision 2030 in April 2016.

With the launch of programs to empower Saudi women, during the past few years, they managed to break through the wall of isolation and stormed the fields of education, work, and politics. Today, women work in the diplomatic corps and represent their country abroad as ambassadors in some countries.

King Salman’s era: A Time for women’s empowerment

Women’s Empowerment

Throughout this report, Leaders MENA magazine presents the most important efforts made by the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to achieve complementary equality between men and women in various fields, to promote women’s rights, to support programs directed at them, and thus improve their work environment in all sectors.

Below you will get information about women’s rights according to Saudi regulations, justice decisions that promote women’s rights, their empowerment in education and training, health, social support, the National Family Safety Program, and justice, business, and political empowerment.

Gender Equality

The systems of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which are derived from Islamic Sharia, adopt the principle of complementary equality between men and women, taking into account the characteristics of both sexes to achieve justice.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia believes that integrating the relationship between the sexes is an ideal way to promote and protect human rights. Hence, most areas of human rights become equal between men and women, such as the right to work, education, health, economic rights, and others.

Equality in Education and Training

Saudi laws guarantee to all citizens the right to an education free of charge without any discrimination. The government believes in the importance of education in achieving sustainable development and human rights, including the necessity of “the state providing public education and a commitment to combating illiteracy.”

The general education policy emphasized free education in all its forms and stages. It linked education to the state’s general development plan, aiming to achieve a sound partnership between men and women.

The Saudi educational system is based on equality between men and women in all its aspects, whether concerning admission and enrollment in school or curriculum, tests, the qualifications of teachers and lecturers, or facilities and study equipment.

Women have received more attention in that aspect, especially with the establishment of some university cities for girls, such as Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University, and university cities affiliated with Imam Muhammad bin Saud University and King Saud University.

Equality in Grants and Subsidies

The existing programs provide equal educational and training opportunities for both sexes and follow the same statutory requirements related to admission procedures.

The percentage of scholarships targeting females has increased significantly concerning the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques program for external scholarships and internal scholarships in Saudi universities.

Health Equality

The Basic Law affirmed the right of men and women to receive health care, as it stated: “The state is concerned with public health and provides health care to every citizen and his family in case of emergency, illness, disability and old age.”

The right is guaranteed to foreign women residing in the Kingdom through the cooperative health insurance system and other related regulations. 

Government hospitals must provide health services for emergencies, regardless of their gender or legal status. These efforts have resulted in the improvement of the general situation in some areas.

The competent authorities have implemented some programs and mechanisms aimed at raising the level of women’s health, including:

– Early detection clinic for women’s health, which provides mobile services, including early detection of diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and health education. It was implemented in October 2014.

Health education programs to prevent anaemia and iron deficiency are being implemented on an ongoing basis in schools, malls, and auditoriums for health facilities auditors.

Advanced Pregnancy Program

– National Breastfeeding Support Program

– Breast Cancer Early Detection Program

– The Healthy Marriage Program provides services to detect hereditary and infectious diseases for those about to marry, such as thalassemia, sickle cell anaemia, hepatitis, and acquired immunodeficiency.

– Anti-drug and psychotropic programs

– Awareness programs on healthy balanced nutrition

– Programs to prevent chronic diseases, protect against cancer, and avoid its causes.

– Epidemiological surveillance system.

– Anti-smoking programs and awareness of the habit’s harmful effects.

Women’s rights in the justice system

The laws and regulations issued in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia guarantee women their rights and take into account their status and circumstances, including:

– A woman has the right to veil herself or leave the house to be searched if she is not accused.

– If the accused woman is alone, the system requires the presence of female authority.

– Executive detention is not permissible for a woman if she is pregnant or has a child below two years old.

– The regulations stipulate that women should be given their rights of inheritance, especially real estate.

– A woman’s silence about claiming her right to inheritance does not mean the forfeiture of her right if she demands it.

– The personal status courts consider marriage requests for those who do not have a guardian and those who had guardians but were prevented from getting married.

– Forcing a woman to marry someone she does not agree to and preventing her from marrying someone who meets the criteria is not permissible and is forbidden by Sharia.

Empowering women in education and training

The Ministry of Education aims to provide many educational and development programs to improve the environment for women working in the academic field. It announced within the National Education Development Program an initiative to enhance teachers’ professional and educational practices and avoid professional isolation and provide a series of lectures, seminars, and workshops for teachers across the country.

The Kingdom believes in the role of women as leaders. For the first time in the history of education, the Ministry of Education has a woman as its official spokesperson.

Public Education: It is noted that the net enrollment rates for females increased from 2008 to 2014 compared to the rates of male enrollment during the same period.

Higher Education: The number of female enrollments in higher educational institutions in 2015 reached (749,375) compared to males (778.394). Educational institutions continue implementing national plans to prepare women to work in universities as faculty members through academic programs within the Kingdom and outside.

Vocational training: The number of technical colleges for females in various regions has doubled within ten years. The first college was established in 2007, and in 2015 the number increased to 18 colleges. They provide qualitative training for women to raise their efficiency and engage in the labor market.

Labor law/women’s legislation

The Agency for Women Empowerment seeks initiatives and projects that support women and people with disabilities in the Saudi labor market and work to implement them. The Saudi labor system for the employment of women stipulates:

– Women work in all fields that are compatible with their nature, and it is prohibited to employ them in dangerous jobs or harmful industries.

– It is not permissible for women to work during the night for no less than eleven consecutive hours.

– Maternity leave is a right for the four weeks preceding and the six weeks following the delivery. The likely date is determined by the facility doctor or by a doctor certified by a health authority. It is prohibited to employ women during the six weeks immediately following childbirth.

Saudi women’s participation in the political sphere

The initial indicators that came in the J-World report reflect the active participation and the significant role that Saudi women play in political life. The percentage of seats held by Saudi women in national parliaments is 20%, and the turnout of Saudi women to run for municipal councils is about 14%.

Among the most prominent Saudi women members of the Shura Council is Dr. Hanan bint Abdul Rahim Al-Ahmadi (Assistant to the Speaker of the Shura Council), Dr. Asma bint Suleiman bin Abdullah Al-Muwaishir, HRH Princess Al-Jawhara bint Fahd bin Khalid Al Saud, Dr. Amal bint Yahya bin Omar Al-Sheikh, and Dr. Amal bint Salama Al-Shaman (member of the Shura Council in its sixth session), among others.

At the senior positions in the country, for the first time in the Kingdom’s history, a woman, Dr. Hananbint Abdul Rahim Al-Ahmadi, is appointed as assistant speaker of the Shura Council after a royal order was issued at the beginning of the last quarter of 2020. 

The percentage of Saudi women in senior and middle management positions is about 25% in the private sector and 3.29% in the government sector.

Participation of Saudi women in development fields

The role of Saudi women is not limited to administrative and political positions only. They participate reasonably in formulating development policies and strategic activities in the country.

The Kingdom got a score of 0.62 in the Women’s Participation in Development Index.

Saudi women and economic participation

Out of every four Saudi women, one woman participates in the labor market. The unemployment rate among Saudi women decreased from 33.7% in the second quarter of 2016 to 31.1% in the second quarter of 2019, which is more than five times the unemployment rate among Saudi males.

According to the labor sector, the percentage of Saudi women working in innovative enterprises is about 59% of females and 41% of males, and the rate of Saudi women’s participation, according to the labor sector, is 41% in the government sector and 31.70% in the private sector.

Saudi women’s participation in the labor market

Since the beginning of the third quarter of 2017, Saudi women no longer need a guardian’s permission to work, which has led to a high rate of Saudi women’s participation in the labor market over the past four years. Its participation rate reached 31.4% during the second quarter of 2020.

The economic participation rates for Saudi females (15 years and over) were higher among Ph.D. holders (100%), followed by those with diplomas without a university degree (67.8%), and then those with a higher diploma/master’s degree (67.4%).

Women and driver’s licenses

A few years ago, Saudi women were prohibited from driving cars in Saudi Arabia. At the end of the third quarter of 2017, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz issued a royal order allowing Saudi women to drive. 

In the middle of 2018, and by the beginning of 2020, the total number of driving licenses issued to women reached 174,624.

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