Female Empowerment in Saudi Arabia

Ajla Nasic, Social Media Manager

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After decades of withstanding oppression under the state of Saudi Arabia and years of advocacy for more rights, women in the country were finally granted the right to drive per a decree issued by the country’s prince on Sept. 24. While it was not officially illegal for women to drive, authorities refused to issue driver’s licenses to women–instituting a de facto ban on women driving.

 

Set to take effect in June 2018, the decree could be the first step toward women’s independence in Saudi Arabia, a country known for its sexist and often oppressive laws. Among the oppressive laws, the most prevalent one is the need for male guardians that must permit women to do basic tasks like traveling, owning property and even pursuing a higher education. While the decree does not formally require male guardians to permit women to drive, it is the first small stride toward female independence in the country.

 

In addition to giving women more rights, the decree has been predicted to benefit Saudi Arabia’s economy. Along with car companies beginning to target Saudi women as a new demographic to market their products to, the prince of the country hopes it will increase women’s participation in the workforce.

With the growth of campaigns like the Women2Drive Movement–an organization that holds demonstrations urging Saudi women to drive despite its illegality–female empowerment is slowly beginning to urge in oppressive countries. Therein, gender disparities are evident in places like Saudi Arabia where women are denied a basic freedom.

 

While the country is making great strides toward equality, many Americans have began to compare their progress to that of our country’s, which is incomparable. The United States is, by definition, a free democratic nation. While our country does not assure equality of outcome, it does assure equality of opportunity, allowing women the freedom to pursue any lifestyle they wish. Therein, it is unfair to conflate the restrictions and oppression inflicted onto Saudi women with the sometimes inconveniences American women face in our nation.

 

The sexism of the country pays sentiment to the present discrimination women feel on a daily basis in third-world countries. It is easy to forget, in our privileged country, that individuals in other parts of the world are less unfortunate than us. As advantaged individuals, we must raise awareness to the disadvantages many women may feel.

 

The issue is not an American one, but it is an issue of progress toward equality in a third-world country. Thus, Americans must acknowledge and praise the great strides some countries are making without relating the issue back to places where gender inequality is not instituted.