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Saudi women: unprecedented, historical empowerment achieved during King Salman’s era

By Taha Sakr

Historical achievements and qualitative gains achieved by Saudi women during last five years of the rule of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, through this report LEADERSMENA Magazine is trying to shed light on the prominent gains that Saudi women acquired recently.

Within the past five years, numerous privileges have been granted by King Salman to women, these privileges contributed to strengthening her position and enhanced the path of achieving gender equality, the granted privileges allowed women to play an important role in development, which would accelerate the progress towards achieving a vision 2030.

During his speech in the Shura Council November 20, King Salman pledged to continue efforts to “empower Saudi women and raise their participation rates in the public and private sectors,” expressing pride in the high rate of economic participation of women from 19.4% at the end of 2017 to 23.2% by the end of the second half of 2019.

Unprecedented Achievements

Saudi women achieved historic gains during the reign of King Salman: In the first year of his rule, the first municipal elections in which women participated as voters and candidates took place on December 12, 2015, and culminated in the victory of 21 women with seats in the municipal council elections in its third session.

Saudi women have also started driving cars since June 24, 2018, in implementation of a historical order issued by King Salman on September 26, 2017, that enabled women to obtain a driver’s license in accordance with the legal controls.

On February 14, 2018, women were allowed to start their business and benefit from government services without the need for guardian approval.

Also, in 2018, Saudi Arabia allowed women to enter sports stadiums for the first time, moreover, the General Authority for Sports announced the availability of 3 stadiums in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam to receive families.

In the fifth year of King Salman’s rule, Saudi women obtained a package of benefits, according to amendments to the systems of travel documents, civil status, and work that took place on August 2, 2019, granting them more rights on more than one level, and allowed them to obtain passports and leave the country without parent consent.

Real Empowerment of Women

Also as a translation of the Saudi leadership’s directions to empower women in various fields. Women held a number of jobs that were previously reserved for men, in both the government and private sectors.

In this regard, Princess Rima Bint Bandar was appointed Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States on February 23, 2019, to be the first woman to hold this position, since the beginning of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1945.

The appointment of the Saudi princess came by royal order issued by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

Similarly, The Saudi businesswoman Lubna Sulaiman Al-Olayan (66 years) was appointed as the head of “SABB ” Bank, which is the bank resulting from the merger of (formerly Saudi-Hollandi) and Saudi (SABB), to be the first precedent of its kind to appoint a woman to this position in the Kingdom.

In the sports field, Saudi driver Rima Al-Juffali wrote a new history by her ascension to the podium, in the “TRD86” championship that was held at Yas Marina Circuit in UAE on October 27, dedicated to cars of one model.

Rima Al-Juffali also became the first Saudi woman to participate in the Formula 4 championship at the Brands Hatch race circuit in England, last April.

Reducing restrictions on women and providing them with more rights, whether on the social level or in the field of work, would raise the percentage of women working in the Kingdom, which is one of the goals of Vision 2030 aimed at reducing dependence on oil, the main source of income now.

Vision 2030 aims to increase the contribution of women in the labor market from 22% to 30% by 2030.