Dammam- The participation of Saudi Arabian women in 2015 in municipal councils has been an important development in the country’s history, emphasized in a significant and unprecedented participation in the electoral process and the acquisition of many seats through appointment or elections.
Twelve months after women’s involvement in the municipal process, Dr. Sumaya Al-Sulaiman, member of Dammam’s Municipal Council said that men and women cooperate in the municipal field, but, the role of woman has been dimly highlighted as women in councils partake in committees and do not have individual missions to complete.
Sulaiman told Asharq Al-Awsat that many aspects of women’s municipal work are still unclear because activities in which woman can really participate were not yet determined.
The Municipality Council Member said women have their own perspective concerning urbanism in the city and neighborhoods and may be able to shed light on certain matters more than men.
For her part, member of the Municipal Council of Qatif Arafat al-Majed said that the experience is still new and its features cannot be detected in the first quarter of the session. She also pointed that women in these councils sought hardly to prove their merit for these seats through hard work and provision of best services.
Talking about her personal experience, Majed said that her work doesn’t differ from her that of her male colleagues because the cooperation among the council’s members facilitates their work and fosters more trust. Yet, Majed refused classification among males and females in work because the real evaluation standard should be based on the quality of projects and their implementation on the ground.
Khadraa al-Mubarak, member of the Municipal Council of the Eastern Region said that since the beginning if her journey in the council, she worked on coping with her new missions and learning about the work’s mechanisms and restriction. She was also keen to open communication channels with the public to know all the required information on the municipal council and developmental municipal services. Mubarak stressed on the importance of women’s achievements in the municipal councils mainly in their participation in project preparations and field trips to verify the implementation of services.
It is worth noting that the participation of women in the municipal work is based on a royal decree- issued on 25 September 2011- which allows women to partake in the municipal elections as candidates and voters, according to the legislative religious regulations adopted in the country. However, women participated in these elections for the first time in 2015 after a total absence in the sessions of 2005 and 2011.
Municipal councils in Saudi Arabia amount to 284; each council is composed of no more than 30 members based on the municipality’s categories. Two thirds of members should be selected by elections while the rest should be appointed with a ministerial decree.
Municipal councils are responsible for setting plans and programs including the implementation of programs adopted in the budget like maintenance and operating, development and investment, and services programs.
Councils should also discuss and evaluate developmental projects before referring them to the concerned authorities. These projects cover the structural, organizational, and residential projects along with services, property confiscation for the public interest, separation or merging of two municipalities, municipal fees and fines, conditions and restrictions of construction, conditions related to the public health, and establishment of subsidiary services offices.