There’s no community in the world without challenges – though, the multitude of barriers in each community differs markedly.I call these barriers inner ghosts of societies - visible or invisible, their presence always lurk our path,obstructing us from progress.Unfortunately, these ghosts are not from an alternate universe,they're our creation.
We nurture them unconsciously,let them ‘possess’ us – fearing our bodies ( community) will decompose if we leave them. Many in Saudi society harbor such fears. And consequently, cultural /traditional barrier end up creating economic/social/legal barrier for many women. Majority women in the country are ‘technically marginalized’ but to identify every Saudi women as ‘oppressed, veiled’ is a terrible mistake. It undermines the achievements of many women. Yes, we want rights but int’l media and few local conservatives/liberals fail to understand ‘rights/freedom’ from a Saudi women’s viewpoint. Of course, there are universal rights which we desperately seek, right to hold a public office,right to drive, etc - and I can observe few, slow changes in this area.
In public life, the male guardianship system structurally constraints women's ability to travel, study, do business. Many women without husband or father face a peculiar dilemma of obtaining permission from their younger brother.Some abuse this system which has no exact basis in Islam. This system is unique Saudi interpretation of the religion. In private life, the attitude towards women is chauvinistic, domestic violence is an issue, either some girls are married off at young age or barred from marrying by their families! However, Saudi women do control a large portion of wealth,reports suggest $11.9bn just cash,which is already proving a catalyst for change.
For Saudi Women – its Guardianship,For Non-saudi women - guardian system plus Saudi Sponsorship system! Now imagine being a non-saudi female?! KSA do not provide citizen by sole virtue of their birth.Naturalizing process of local-born-foreigners only started five years ago.Based on points system – many find the requirements ambiguous and tricky.
I strongly think all women must collaborate and understand each other,rather than seeing each other as aliens. There must be a support system for migrant women workers,more Arabic language classes and increased inter-racial awareness among women. Many Saudi women think foreign women take away their jobs, but those jobs are sometimes low paid and they work long hours. Abuse is there–Saudi or not! Negative stereotypes like ‘non-saudi women do not contribute to society’ persists. I personally did a story last year ( my first feature ) on a Bangladeshi women who wrote the first Geography book on KSA in English! She also master-mined the first ever ModelUnitedNationsConference in KSA.
Women here need to connect to other women worldwide and see that we aren’t the only one facing issues and ultimately seek and provide support. I am encouraging more women to join world pulse - It’s the first step.
There’re some promising ‘happenings and events’ coming up in the country,I’m providing social media consultancy to one of them. And I very much intend to use World Pulse,rigorously !
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Voices of Our Future Application: Challenges and Solutions to Creating Change.