First Published: 2009-04-15

 
First female Saudi appointment an encouraging development
 

Al Fayez's appointment suggests reform may be coming, Saudi 's women's rights agenda is progressing.

 

Middle East Online

By Samar Fatany - JEDDAH

A step in the right direction for Saudi women

Last month's appointment of a Saudi woman as Deputy Minister of Women's Education – the first female appointment of its kind – is an encouraging development, one that may influence change and accelerate reform in Saudi Arabia. However many women are sceptical.

Although women are making strides in other sectors – for example, the government has appointed a female dean at a university in Riyadh and one can find women who head departments in some Saudi hospitals – there are still no women in political leadership positions in Saudi Arabia.

So what will Nura Al Fayez’s appointment as Deputy Minister truly achieve? Can one Saudi woman lobby for the rest?

Al Fayez certainly has a difficult task ahead. She is expected to focus on women's academic excellence, provide training programmes for women to develop appropriate skills for the job market and review issues that hinder women's academic learning and quality of life. She is also expected to address requests to lift the ban on physical education for girls in schools and universities, provide better school facilities and build extra curriculum programmes in music and drama.

Yet, Saudi women's expectations extend beyond the responsibilities of her post. Many hope she will exert pressure on the Shura Council, a consultative political organ which is the equivalent of a parliament but has limited legislative powers, to eliminate discrimination against women in the political arena and call for a quota for women in leadership positions.

In addition, Al Fayez will undoubtedly be pressured by many of the country's reformers to demand that women be treated as equal citizens and be given equal opportunities to fulfil their dreams and aspirations.

The failure of Saudi Arabia to allow women into the political decision-making process has deprived the country of some of its best brains. While many believe that it will take yet another generation of Saudis to change the negative mindset against women, Al Fayez's appointment suggests reform may be coming and the country's women's rights agenda is progressing.

While the appointment of Al Fayez is a step in the right direction, it may be not enough. The country's women are watching to see if Nura Al Fayez can make a difference.

Samar Fatany is a radio journalist in Saudi Arabia. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service and can be accessed at GCNews.

 

Iraq Kurds start voting in historic independence referendum

Erdogan threatens Iraqi Kurds with border closure, oil block

US-led strikes killed 84 civilians near Syria's Raqa

Iran shuts border with Iraqi Kurdistan

Dubai set to become first city with flying taxis

UAE announces plans for region’s first nuclear reactor

Putin to visit Erdogan this week for Syria, Iraq talks

Sudan vows to step up efforts to improve US ties

Turkey to launch intervention into Syria — and maybe into Iraq

Egyptian ‘world’s heaviest woman’ dies in Abu Dhabi

Palestinian unity government remains unlikely

Emirati man fights his employer to serve in country’s army

Palestinian PM to visit Gaza next week

Saudi advisory body to tackle female driving ban

Turkey denies closing Iraqi border in response to Kurdish vote

US air strikes kill 17 Islamic State militants in Libya

Yemen's Hadi says military solution 'most likely'

The high cost of Syria’s destruction

Palestinian negotiator awaits lung transplant in US

Kurds ready for contentious vote in Iraq

A Kurdish state: Reality or utopia?

Saudi intercepts missile fired from Yemen

Saudi Arabia marks national day with fireworks, concerts

Iran defies US, tests missile

Turkey warns of 'security' steps in response to Iraqi Kurd vote

Barzani delays Kurdish independence vote announcement

Syria's war off the radar at UN assembly

For many Iraqis, tradition trumps police

Darfur clashes kill 3 as Bashir urges reconciliation

Saudi cleric banned for saying women have ‘quarter’ brain

Veteran Syrian activist, daughter assassinated in Istanbul

Tunisia drops forced anal exams for homosexuality

Bomb used in Saudi-led strike on Yemen children US-made

Syria Kurds vote to cement federal push

Police charge teenager over London Underground attack

Nigerian official to meet Turkish counterpart over illegal guns

Thousands feared trapped in Raqa as IS mounts last stand

Iraqi forces achieve first step in new offensive on IS

Migrant boat sinks off Turkish Black Sea coast leaving four dead, 20 missing

Trump praises 'friend' Erdogan

Yemen leader promises UN to open entire country to aid

Rouhani vows Iran will boost missiles despite US criticism

Russia clashes with EU over Syria

UN Security Council warns against holding Iraqi Kurd vote

UN sets up probe of IS war crimes in Iraq