By Claire Valdini
“My coming target is to make the workplace a better place for women'" says award-winning activist
Reem Asaad, who successfully campaigned for female employees in Saudi Arabia’s lingerie shops, will lobby for private sector companies to provide childcare facilities for working mothers in the Gulf state, she has told Arabian Business.
Asaad, whose campaign helped enforce a law enabling females to work in lingerie and apparel stores this year, said she targets laws already in place but unimplemented.
“My coming target is to make the workplace a better place for women [and provide] daycare for working mothers,” she said.
“The approach that I take is that I target unimplemented laws and regulations. Every organisation that employs a certain amount of women must have some kind of daycare facility but 95 percent of them don’t abide by that rule because women didn’t [used to] work in mixed private sector organisations but now they do.
“The law is there, I don’t need to alter anything, I stir public opinion; that’s my strategy,” she added.
Saudi women account for around seven percent of nationals employed by private sector companies but make up almost half of all Saudis listed as looking for work, according to 2009 government figures.
In Saudi Arabia, where gender segregation is strictly enforced and women need permission from a close male to work and travel, employment has traditionally been seen as an all-male preserve but the government is pushing for more women to enter the job market.
Authorities in the kingdom in January began enforcing a law that allows only females to work in lingerie and clothing stores, a second stab at enforcing a ruling originally rolled out in 2006. The Labour Ministry in January said more than 28,000 women had applied for the jobs.
Further sanctions will be considered if shops that sell make-up, women’s clothing, abayas and accessories have not made the staffing switch by July.
Asaad launched her “Lingerie Campaign” in 2010, calling for better employment opportunities for women and improved consumer rights. The movement gained international recognition stirring many underlying issues about women in the kingdom. Last week Arabian Business ranked Asaad third in its annual list of the world’s most influential Arabs.