In the last few years, things have changed drastically for women in Saudi Arabia when it comes to their rights and female empowerment.
The changes are part of the many initiatives under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 scheme, an ambitious post-oil economic plan, which has a major focus on women’s rights in the Kingdom.
Just three months after he stepped into the role in 2017, the Crown Prince unveiled in a royal decree, women would be able to secure driving licenses from June 2018 and he has gone on to do much more.
Then, in March 2018, it was announced by the Ministry of Justice that women who are divorced in the country would be able to instantly retain custody of their children.
Under his plans, women are now also able to attend sports events in stadiums in three cities, female students in the Kingdom are now allowed to carry their phones while on campus and as of August 2019, women aged over 21 are now allowed to travel independently.
In the last few months alone, there have been many notable history-making moments and appointments in Saudi Arabia paving the way for women.
Here’s seven history-making moments which have occurred for women in the Kingdom just recently.
A female member of the Saudi Royal Guard performing her duties
Back in June, Moaid Mahjoub, Director of Government Affairs, External Relations and Protocol at Princess Jawahar Al Saud’s Private Office, posted a photo on Twitter of a female member of the Saudi Royal Guard performing her duties.
Historical moment at Saudi Royal Guard Regiment . Thanks to The Crown Prince, His Royal Highness Mohammed Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud . #pif #g20saudiarabia #saudiarabia #riyadh #jeddah #السعودية
— مؤيد محجوب Moaid Mahjoub (@moaidmahjoub) June 25, 2020
“Historical moment at Saudi Royal Guard Regiment. Thanks to The Crown Prince, His Royal Highness Mohammed Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud,” Mahjoub captioned the photo.
It was announced in October last year women would be able to start joining the military and land forces in the Kingdom in a wide range of positions including corporals and sergeants. This could be across any of the armed forces in Saudi Arabia including the Strategic Missile Forces, Armed Forces Medical Services, Saudi Arabian Navy and the Air Force.
Princess Reema’s new official appointment
HRH Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud has officially been elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday.
It’s a history-making moment, as she becomes the first Saudi female ambassador to be appointed as a member of the IOC.
Honored to be elected as a member of #IOC. Thank you to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, HRH Crown Prince, and @AbdulazizTF for their support. It has been an honor to serve my community through the universal language of sports. @iocmedia @saudiolympic pic.twitter.com/vLsNltgz0c
— Reema Bandar Al-Saud (@rbalsaud) July 17, 2020
Upon her official appointment, the princess took to Twitter to share how “honoured” she was to be elected onto the committee.
“Thank you to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, HRH Crown Prince, and Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal [President of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee] for their support,” she added. “It has been an honour to serve my community through the universal language of sports.”
A groundbreaking court ruling
In a court ruling that occurred in the Kingdom in July, it was stated: “An adult, rational woman living independently is not a crime”.
Prior to this ruling, the parents of a woman who had disappeared or was living along without gaining permission from their guardians would be able to file a report with the police, according to Gulf News. It was known as the ‘absenteeism’ law.
However, the latest ruling that women can live independently could drastically improve gender equality in Saudi Arabia, was hailed as “historical” by lawyer Abdul Rahman Al Lahim.
“A historic ruling was issued on Wednesday, affirming that independence of a sane, adult woman in a separate house is not a crime worthy of punishment,” the lawyer said on Twitter at the time. “I am very happy with this ruling that ends tragic stories for women.”
Saudi Arabia appoints its first female cultural attaches
Last month, three female cultural attaches were appointed, which is a first for the nation.
The appointment was made by the Education Minister for the Kingdom, Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh, who determined the new positions of the three Saudi women, all of whom are educators, according to the nation’s state news agency.
#وزير_التعليم يصدر قرارات تكليف عدد من الملحقين الثقافيين في دول خليجية وعربية وصديقة من بينهم ثلاث سيدات؛ يتقلدن هذا المنصب للمرة الأولى، وذلك تمكيناً للمرأة السعودية لخدمة وطنها وقيادتها.https://t.co/CoFDoNU8HJ pic.twitter.com/scGn1VQSGZ
— وزارة التعليم – جامعي (@mohe_sa) August 2, 2020
Fahda bint Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh has been appointed as cultural attache in Ireland; Dr. Amal bint Jameel Fatani has been appointed cultural attache in the UK; and Dr. Yusra bint Hussain Al-Jazairi has been appointed as acting cultural attache in Morocco.
Female Secretary-General of Tabuk’s regional council appointed
Last month Dr. Khulood Mohammed al-Khamis was appointed Secretary-General of Tabuk’s regional council, it made her the first woman to hold this role across the entire Kingdom.
Having worked as an associate professor in the science department at the University of Tabuk, Dr. al-Khamis knows the area well.
To solidify her new role, the new secretary-general met with the Governor of Tabuk Region Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz on Monday after her new appointment was announced.
The governor expressed how confident he was in Dr. al-Khamis being the first woman to hold such a position.
“His Highness congratulated Dr. Khulood al-Khamis on this confidence as the first woman to hold the position of Secretary-General of the regional council at the level of the Kingdom, wishing her continued success in her new work,” a statement said about the pair’s meeting which was obtained by the Saudi Press Agency.
10 women in senior positions at Two Holy Mosques
In mid-August, Saudi Arabia’s General Presidency for the Affairs appointed 10 women into senior roles at the Two Holy Mosques.
Per a statement issued to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the latest appointments are “empowering women to assume leadership positions is an important subject that will reflect on the development and the economy”.
The statement also added that the new appointments are set to “support the process of creativity and achieving the principles of quality and the highest standards of excellence in order to achieve the generous aspirations of the wise leadership”.
First female director-general appointed in the Foreign Ministry
In late August, another historical appointment was made with the announcement from the Saudi Foreign Ministry that Ahlam Bint Abdulrahman Yanksar would take on the role of director-general of the ministry’s department of cultural affairs. This makes her the first female figure to hold such a senior post in the Kingdom, per Gulf News.
Having obtained a master’s degree in international business administration from the University of London, Ahlam has had a successful career working in both the Ministry’s undersecretary for political and economic affairs. She has also worked in the Saudi embassy in London, where she studied, in the economic and cultural section.
It’s clear things are changing rapidly for women in the Kingdom, which is very exciting to see.
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Feature Image: Getty