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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Opinion

Not a small feat: Saudi women can finally have their voices heard


saudi-vote

Female involvement may help bring change towards gender equality in Saudi Arabia. | Leah Nash/The Cougar

Until recently, women in Saudi Arabia were unable to experience the empowerment that derives from the ability to participate in the electoral process.

This December, a long anticipated opportunity will finally be granted to these women who will be able to cast votes and run for municipal courts.

“The participation of the Saudi women in the municipal elections as voters and candidates was a dream for us,” Jamal al-Saadi, a local woman who registered to vote, said to the Saudi Gazette. “The move will enable Saudi women to have a say in the process of the decision-making.”

Arab News reported that 70 women indicated their intention to run for municipal office, while another 80 have registered as campaign managers.

Although this freedom was first granted in 2011, women couldn’t participate until the 2015 electoral race. Many rights activists are concerned that other limitations are still too deep to truly impact gender equality in the nation. Saudi women are not allowed to drive themselves to the polls, and are segregated from their male counterparts.

The primary concern is that women will not have a real impact once elected into the courts, and will receive push back from male members.

“Unfortunately I think there will be some backlash,” said Ahmed Sarraj, president of the Muslim Student Association. “I think the future generations will really be able to have that change. It might not happen in 2015, but I believe that it definitely looks good for the future.”

American perception of Saudi Arabia stirs mixed emotions. Altering Americans’ perception of Muslims seems dismal.

“The perception of Muslims in general isn’t a good one, so any good progress that we can have is a positive one. I believe this is a baby step, and we’re moving forward,” Sarraj said.

For countries who have allowed some women to vote for over 90 years, this feat might appear small and overdue.

While we cannot deny that this movement is behind other countries, the rest of the world should open its heart and realize that this is no small achievement for Saudi women. The opportunity to have a voice is a basic human right, and it is no longer unfamiliar to them.

Opinion columnist Phylicia Sneed is an english senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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