The seemingly all-male meeting of an inaugural girls’ council sparks online backlash.
It was an initiative designed to empower women of the Kingdom.
However, the inaugural meeting of a new girls’ council in Saudi Arabia has prompted criticism after no women appeared to take part.
The al-Qassim province released an image of 13 men on stage (not all pictured above) for its first council get-together to talk about women’s issues.
The image has since spread online, with many questioning why no women were taking part.
However, women were reportedly in attendance, the BBC reports, but they were sitting in another room and connected via a video-link.
The conservative nation currently employs strict gender segregation, hence the separate rooms.
Despite its critics, the council has been praised for trying to give the country’s women a voice in a first-of-its-kind move.
The council was launched by Prince Faisal bin Mishaal bin Saud, governor of al-Qassim, who said he was proud of the initiative.
“In the Qassim region, we look at women as sisters to men, and we feel a responsibility to open up more and more opportunities that will serve the work of women and girls,” he said, the BBC reported.
The council is chaired by his wife, Princess Abir bint Salman, who was not pictured in the circulating photograph.
Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia are changing…
The country has already loosened some of its stricter rules in recent years, as part of Vision 2030, its post-oil economy plans.
Currently, the country prohibits women from taking the wheel, interacting with men, trying clothes while shopping or competing freely in sports.
However, the kingdom recently held its first-ever women’s day, a ban on women voting or taking part in elections was lifted in 2015, and in 2016 the strict religious police were stripped of their power to stop, question, pursue or arrest people.
The hope is to make the region a more modern, tourist-friendly destination by 2030, and subsequently there have been several calls from prominent figures to lift the controversial driving ban.
There have also been requests to lift strict labour laws, along with a landmark petition asking the government to do away with the male guardianship law.
The government also have plans to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.