Females – including royals – have come together to fight for their rights.
A Women’s Day event has just been held in the capital of Riyadh, a nationwide-first for the ultra-conservative kingdom.
The three-day gathering, which was held from February 1 to 4 at the King Fahd Cultural Centre, featured talks from advocates of a woman’s right to drive, as well as other legal rights for women, including freedom of guardianship.
Currently, the country prohibits women from taking the wheel, interacting with men, trying clothes while shopping or competing freely in sports.
Female members from the Saudi royal family were also on hand to take part in panel discussions, with Princess Al-Jawhara bint Fahad Al-Saud hosting a discussion on women’s roles in education.
Princess Adila bint Abdullah Al-Saud, a known advocate of women’s right to drive, women’s health awareness and women’s legal rights, held a talk about the kingdom’s heritage.
Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, the president’s undersecretary for the female section at the General Authority for Sports, spoke on the importance of sports in the lives of Saudi women.
The event saw activities for women only, but families were welcome to attend outdoor activities for the younger ones.
Mohammed Al Saif, general supervisor of the King Fahd Cultural Centre, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia wants to “celebrate the Saudi woman and her successful role, and remind people of her achievements in education, culture, medicine, literature and other areas”.
While women’s rights are a controversial topic in Saudi Arabia, Al Saif mentioned that there were no attempts to stop the event by any party.
Al Saif expressed his gratitude for the “heartwarming support and encouragement”.
Changes are already being made
The conservative nation looks set to undergo several reforms as part of Vision 2030, its post-oil economy plans.
Indeed, some changes have already been made in the field of women’s rights, with a ban on women voting or taking part in elections 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.