In a progressive and unprecedented move, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has sworn 30 women into the Shura Council. The Council, a previously all-male body, is in charge of advising the king on issues that affect Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah amended the council’s statute last month by requiring that 20 percent of the 150 members be women. King Abdullah’s female appointments mark the first time in Saudi Arabia’s history that women have been allowed to hold any political office.
This inclusion is one of many changes that King Abdullah has implemented for women in recent years. In response to protests in 2011-2012, Abdullah granted women the right to vote for the 2015 municipal council elections and, this past July, announced that women athletes will be allowed to compete in the Olympics for the first time. As one new female council member, Thuraya al-Arrayed, stated “I must say it’s an historic occasion. I’m honored to be part of it. If it works, if it is positive then it will change the attitudes that are still worrying about the participation of women. I’m not just talking about the Shura Council, I’m talking about the empowerment of women and their participation in the general affairs of the country.”
However, Saudi Arabia still has a long way to go until any semblance of gender equality is established. Women are not allowed to drive, must cover their hair and faces, and are segregated because of their sex in public areas. As King Abdullah stated at the ceremony, “The development we are working at must be gradual.” Beginning its first session of its Sixth Term on February 24, The Shura Council’s new lineup will hopefully catalyze further progressive changes for women in Saudi Arabia, showing the country that women are just as capable as men.
Image via: Arab News