Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Several Saudi businesswomen, academics and physicians have gone on record asserting their high hopes for a greater role for Saudi women in the kingdom under the sovereignty of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz. They hope that the status of the Saudi working women will be enhanced and would like the country”s political leadership to be aware of their ability to be productive citizens.
Hala al-Mu”ajjal, a lecturer at King Saud University”s College of Administrative Sciences, believes that the higher education sector needs further development. She wants to see new buildings and departments for female students in all subjects just like their male counterparts. She emphasized the necessity of employing a larger number of female academics and to open new University branches so that a greater numbers of female students could be enrolled. She also called for sending female lecturers more frequently on scholarship courses to raise their academic standards, and for measures to improve their financial situation and grant retired female lecturers better benefits.
Dr Islam Khujah, consultant surgeon and the head of the vascular surgery unit at King Fahd General Hospital in Medina, stressed the need to alter the stereotypical way in which Saudi society perceives female doctors, noting that attempts are consistently made to ridicule their status and roles. She called on giving females in the medical profession better positions like hospital administrators and to ease the procedures needed for them to be sent on scholarships abroad. She noted that women”s scholarships are frequently cancelled because of the additional costs incurred by their need to be accompanied by a close male relative during their travel abroad.
Dr Khujah pointed out that although there are well qualified female doctors, they are usually past over for chief administrative posts and are even denied assistants to chief administrators posts, even when there is a lack of male candidates for the job.
Dr Suhaylah ZaynalAbidin, member of the Saudi National Human Rights Society, believes in the importance of developing a civil society, affirming that it is a basic component, which helps authorities in establishing justice, and providing urgent relief aid in times of crisis and catastrophes. She added that this could be done by recognizing professional associations like physicians, engineers, and teachers associations. She called for increasing the number of private charity societies and giving licenses to organizations for protecting women from domestic violence and physical and emotional abuse.
Zaynalabidin said that it is important to establish a Saudi women”s league, so that women”s demands could reach authorities in a more prompt and organized manner. She advocated giving women the right to vote and run as candidates in municipal elections and to become active members of the Saudi Shura Council.
Regarding the field of law and the judiciary, Zaynalabidin stressed the need to allow women to practice law to defend female clients. She said that there is an urgent need to hasten the implementation of the decision to establish family courts that will help improve the status of Saudi women. She explained that female legislative and legal committees should be apart of the courts system to help the judges do their work.
Manal al-Sharif, a journalist for Al-Watan newspaper, said that it is necessary to establish an accurate assessment of the status of Saudi female journalists in all of the country”s press establishments, because currently their rights are ignored and they do not receive the recognition they deserve. She stated that doors are closed in their faces, and they and they are banned from major conventions and international economic forums that are held in Saudi Arabia, unlike their counterparts in the West.
Al-Sharif stressed the need to establish equality between male and female journalists in pay and professional recognition and to allow female journalists to attend more training courses.
Regarding economic and investment activity, Nahid al-Millah, former branch manager at the Saudi-French Bank, underlined the need to establish official female departments that will help Saudi businesswomen carry out their business transactions without needing to employ an intermediary. If this is done, she said, it would constitute a major step forward in Saudi society”s economic development.
She added that it is necessary to focus attention on financing small female-owned projects and remove all obstacles, treating them exactly as men are treated in the sphere of business and investment. She called for giving female bank employees greater authorities, increasing their number, and allowing them to work each in her own specialized field.