Milestone For Saudi Arabia Women: Voted & Elected In Government Office
History was made on Dec. 12: Saudi Arabia women were able to vote and get elected to public office. This was a landmark event in the extremely conservative region.Advertisement
Preliminary results show that there were at least six Saudi Arabia women elected in public office, CNN reported. The female winners were Salma al-Oteibi from Mecca, Lama al-Suleiman and Rasha Hufaithi in Jeddah, Hanouf al-Hazimi in Al Jouf province, and Sanaa al-Hammam and Masoumah Abdelreda in the Ahsa region.
While there were obvious discrepancies in the number of women and men that participated in the election, the event was truly a big step for Saudi Arabia. All in all, 978 women ran for office alongside 5,938 men, BBC reported. There were 130,000 women who registered to vote compared to the 1.35 million men.
Extremely conservative rules were still enforced on women. Female and male voters were still separated. There were polling stations exclusive to women. There were also those who still have to be driven by men to polling centers because they are still not allowed to drive. Those who ran for office were required to have their campaign speeches behind a partition or have a man recite it for them. Nonetheless, the joy to be finally allowed to vote and run for office triumphed over the discrimination that still exists.
“It felt really good. Change is a big word but the election is the way to make sure we are really represented,” Salma al-Rashed, the first woman to register to vote, told BBC.
“It feels great. This is a historical moment. I thank God I am living it,” said Hatoon al-Fassi. She was an activist who campaigned for the Saudi Arabia women’s right to vote for ten years. “I am not really worried about the number, or to have any women winning. The fact that we have gone through this exercise is what really matters,” she said jubilantly.
One female voter told Human Rights Watch that simply seeing women vote and express their ideas during campaign time was already a very positive thing. Another said she would never let go of the right finally given to them, even with some conservative rules still imposed upon them.
“Saudi women have faced significant obstacles in their fight for their right to vote and run in the municipal council elections, but their participation on December 12 will send a strong signal to Saudi society that women are continuing the long march toward greater participation in public life,” Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
The right to vote was declared by the King Abdullah by royal decree in 2011. King Salman, a successor to King Abdullah, followed the decree.