Young women reflect on year’s changes

International Women Day

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Students at a career fair in Effat University Students at a career fair in Effat University

Saudi Gazette

RECENT reforms and lifting of barriers have challenged social norms in Saudi Arabia at a rapid pace that have caused society to be split between two camps, one deeming them too fast and another — often the youth — to find it to be “just the right pace”.

Many Saudi women wonder how daily life has transformed in their country socially and economically since the past. Most have wondered throughout their lives when they would witness the day women will be able to drive.

Today’s generation live in a different Saudi Arabia than their parents’ age and believe the possibilities are now more than the impossibilities.

“There’s been an apparent focus on women this year,” says Aljohara Al-Ghamdi, an undergraduate student at Effat University, commenting on the recent liberation occurring in the Kingdom, such as new jobs for women, allowing for family entertainment and promoting more female leaders. “Indeed, it is fast”, she admits, “but it’s in our benefit”.

When asked about the career opportunities women can pursue, she, like many of her friends, sees unlimited possibilities now that new avenues of work have opened for women. “If she can handle the pressure of any job she wants, she can do it,” she said.

Most young women would agree change is “positive” and that it’s time to catch up with the rest of the world, especially in breaking the glass ceiling in careers and leadership posts.

“Who new we would see female pilots, policewomen, and all these new jobs opening up today?” said 21-year-old Fatima Al-Twerki. “The recent changes, such as allowing women to drive and work alongside with men in organizations make women’s lives so much easier.”

“Everybody should support these reforms,” she further said. “It’s a great and yet radical change that took the world by storm. Once driving was allowed, it triggered a series of changes.”

However, society could be not as fast to adapt to the many changes that have shook the country throughout one year’s time. As with anything new, resistance is bound to happen in the beginning.

“It’s always challenging in the beginning,” said Fatima, who is not sure yet whether her father will allow her to drive in June. “There’s still peer pressure on men to prevent their family members to enjoy full freedoms.”

Aljohara commented, “What’s still holding us back are old-fashioned traditions and mentalities. Lots of men in our society are still attached to them.”

23-year-old Hanouf Al-Aamri said the many changes send a shockwave to society. “I think it’s good that the reforms happened all at once. Even if we still don’t see mentalities changing, eventually it will appear because when there’s a law, it will lead to changes on the ground.”

She added, “You see some guys mocking us that we can now ‘do anything we want’. With time, the same people joking about it will be the ones supporting their sisters and wives just like with education and other things that were first introduced in the past.”

Her younger sister, Shada, says she’d like to see women “more independent”. “Women should be able to be independent whether they are married or not. Single moms, for example, still don’t have it easy especially those who work,” she said.

22-year-old Raghad Alamri, who is married, believes “it matters a great deal whether your father or husband you’re living with is supportive and open-minded. Men in the family play a role in a woman’s independence.”

Commenting on recent steps promoting women empowerment, she said, “You can easily notice that women in public are generally braver and more confident.

It’s positive for us as long as this liberation will still preserve our values as an Islamic country in the future.”


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