With women about to take up positions in Saudi Arabia’s Majlis Al-Shoura (Consultative Council) next year, questions are being raised about just what role they might play. Fatin Bundagji, writing in Arab News, says that women must be involved on all twelve committees: human rights, education, culture and information, health and social affairs, urban services and public utilities, foreign affairs, security, the economy, industry and finance, not just the soft, ‘womanly’ ones. I’m sure there’s a real temptation to pack them all off into a corner where they deal with ‘subjects suitable for women’, as has been done in business and professions in past. That was never a legitimate approach in the past; it is absolutely wrong today.

The women appointed to the Shoura Council cannot be just showpieces. They will make up 23% of the Council and they need to be given the opportunities to function fully.

Women and Majlis Al Shoura: Presence with impact?
Fatin Bundagji

Events are moving… and moving fast.

Last Friday, it was publicly announced that logistical preparations are being carried out to accommodate the 35 women to be appointed to the highest level of advisory and legislative assembly in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: An assembly known to the international community as The Saudi Consultative Council, but better known to us as: “Majlis Al Shoura.”

As history begins to etch its first few chapters on reform measures for Saudi women empowerment, the clock is ticking relentlessly — not necessarily against us but rather — quite positively for us. Last year, after the king’s speech (that mandated the appointment of women into Majlis Al Shoura, as well as their inclusion as contestants and voters in future Municipal Council elections in the Kingdom) people were either skeptical or hopeful.

The skeptics believed that any change related to women empowerment was not going to see the light of day. For them, the ultra-conservative nature of Saudi society would work hard to exert its entire prowess to guarantee that such a reform would never come to bear. Ironically enough, their assumptions were well founded as it had been proven — not once but twice — after all, weren’t women excluded from Municipal Council elections in 2005 and once again in 2011 under the pretext of logistical delays?


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