On International Women’s Day, Saudi women celebrate new freedoms

On International Women’s Day, Saudi women celebrate new freedoms

RIYADH (Rahnuma): Life for a woman in Saudi Arabia, especially a Saudi woman, was full of frustrations until recently.

Women were treated as second-class citizens and had to rely on a male guardians (mihram) for most aspects of their everyday life. Accomplishing anything independently was almost impossible without a mihram. An adult female was unable to travel without the consent of a man. Saudi women had to adhere to social rules implemented by extreme conservatives and could not apply for jobs or dine out without the permission or company of a male guardian.

Slowly but surely King Salman paved the way for women to live independently, free from these restrictions. On Aug. 1, 2019, a decree signed by King Salman declared that Saudi women no longer needed permission from a male guardian to travel or obtain a passport.
It was a life-changing moment for Saudi women, no matter how small it seemed to the outside world. And since that decree less than a year ago, coupled with the 2017 ruling — enforced in 2018 — allowing Saudi women to drive, Saudi women are flourishing and becoming more active in the workforce.
Balqis Fahad, a widow with three children, told Arab News that she wept on the day the royal decree was announced. Fahad’s husband died when she was pregnant with her third child, and her children’s futures were placed in her brother-in-law’s care.
“They were tough times,” she recalls. “He wasn’t unkind, but inevitably their lives were in his hands and we had to live according to his standards, not mine. My children and I were at (his) mercy. My children’s lives were in his hands. I wasn’t able to call the shots, the executive decision lay with him.” Those decisions ranged from choosing the schools her children attended, to whether or not they could travel.

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