Now, his vision has turned into a positive reality. We have all witnessed how the country has been moving away from extreme conservatism to a more liberal stance, encouraging creativity, innovation, and sustainable development. Furthermore, significant reforms have occurred in several fields, allowing women to make a vital contribution in society. Not only are Saudi women participating in the development of their country and rising to leadership in every field, but they have also become a considerable social and economic asset.
Remarkable progress has been achieved in the kingdom over the past few years in the implementation of the third United Nations Millennium Development Goal related to promoting gender equality and empowering women.
Active policies and national programmes are currently redressing long-standing discrepancies between the positions of men and women. The advancement of gender equality in the education system has led to a substantial decrease in young female illiteracy. As result, the gender gap in enrolment that once existed throughout the education system has been closed at the primary, secondary and university levels. Education has provided women with the necessary academic and professional equipment to participate in the labour market. Currently, massive and rigorous national efforts are going on in the kingdom to promote the dynamic status of Saudi women. Huge investments are targeted at reforming the women’s education system and expanding the training sector through vocational training programmes in various regions of the country. Further modifications are under way to improve the quality of the girls’ school curriculum and women’s university programmes so as to meet the needs of a modern labour market.
Today, Saudi women hold positions that were once considered beyond their capacity and the national labour policy is endorsing the creation of diversified jobs so as to raise their contribution in the economic sector toward a knowledge market economy. The inclusion of highly qualified women in the Shoura Council will provide excellent role models for young Saudi women, the resource of the future.
It is vital that the voices of Saudi women are heard in the Shoura Council to foster broader participation in policy making, along with an extensive exchange of ideas and greater transparency in the formulation, enactment, evaluation and modification of major national policies. The empowerment of women as political leaders will enhance the country’s governance and development policy as well as introduce positive developments, changes and reforms in education, employment, health and infrastructure. Now the doors are open for Saudi women: it is time for us to pass through those doors and act.
Dr. Mona AlMunajjed is a sociologist, author and adviser on social and gender issues.
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