In a groundbreaking step forwards towards equality, women were finally allowed to participate in elections in Saudi Arabia
Image credit: Twitter
And the first woman to be elected is apparently Salma bint Hizab al-Oteibi, who has won a seat on the council of Madrakah, a region in the holy city of Mecca – beating two other women, and seven men to the spot.
It’s a big deal. Saudi Arabia has some of the toughest restrictions upon women in the world – it’s almost 2016, but they’re still not allowed to drive, leave the house without a male chaperone, interract with men or go swimming (and those are just some of the first things that came up when we googled ‘Saudi Arabia Women’s Rights‘ – there are many, many more examples out there).
But despite attempts by society to repress the female voice, over 900 women came forward as candidates for the election, which took place on Sunday, and saw them compete with over 6000 men. And while the female candidates weren’t allowed to meet with any male voters (who made up 90 per cent of the electoral vote), that just makes their success all the more remarkable.
After all, if 18 women can win without a fair (or equal) campaign, then imagine how many could reach the top if they were only allowed to leave the house unaccompanied.
Hatoon al-Fassi, a Saudi womens’ rights activist agrees. ‘This is a new day. The day of the Saudi woman,’ she tweeted, while Najla Harir, a first-time female voter said, ‘I exercised my electoral right. We are optimistic about a bright future for women in our homeland.’
‘As a woman, I need some services, some needs in my neighbourhood, like nurseries,’ added Fahda al-Rwali. ‘I need social centres for youth and retirement, like this. So maybe the woman can concentrate more than the man on those needs.’