Women in Saudi Arabia Finally Allowed to Vote and Run For Office – Still Can’t Drive
This is going to be a big year in Saudi Arabia! Women will be allowed to vote in this year’s upcoming elections in Saudi Arabia for the first time ever! What’s more, they can also run for office! Too bad they still can’t drive. Then again, now that they can vote, they can vote to change that.
Women in Saudi Arabia began registering to vote on Sunday in Medina and Mecca, and they’ll be able to register in the rest of the country on August 23. It’ll be interesting to see how the elections go this year with this many more voters in the mix; voters who have been so heavily restricted in the past. In addition to driving, women in Saudi Arabia are also forbidden from: swimming in public pools; working out in gyms; trying on clothes in store dressing rooms; entering cemeteries; reading fashion magazines; wearing anything other than a full abaya covering their face, hair, and body; going most places without a male relative or a chaperone known as a mahram; get divorced; or open their own bank accounts.
Now some of these things (like wearing an abaya) might be a part of religious observance that many women may want to keep. However other things (like restriction on travel without a male chaperone) might not. It’ll be interesting to see how things change as women have more and more of a say in Saudi Arabia’s politics. As reported by the Saudi Gazette, Jamal Al-Saadi, a business owner who chaired a committee of Medina’s Chamber of Commerce, was one of the first women to register on Sunday. She’s thrilled, and seems to have big plans. Says Al-Saadi:
I was quite ready for this day. I have prepared all the documents needed to obtain a voter’s card. This is a nice experience to go through. We are just at the beginning of the road.
Al-Saadi also sounded like she might want to run for office herself (which would make sense, since she already has leadership experience chairing committees in the Chamber of Commerce). She said, “I may have such ambitions. I love to go through this experience till the very end.”
I’d love to see that, too! Here’s to the women of Saudi Arabia continuing to design the lives they want for themselves. One small step at a time.
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