By Talal Malik
Prizes and scholarships worth $270,000 a year offered to women in kingdom.
A Saudi princess is offering prizes and scholarships worth $270,000 a year to boost female journalists in the kingdom.
Princess Hassa bin Salman told newswire AFP on Tuesday that her mission was to encourage Saudi women to work in journalism and develop their skills through traning and practice.
"Women journalists are best placed to promote cultural communication between men and women in Saudi society in a manner compatible with sharia and moderate social norms," she said.
Princess Hassa, daughter of Riyadh governor Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, a half-brother of King Abdullah, said she would allocate $160,000 a year for scholarships for study and training in a dedicated centre which will launch a special section for women.
Bursaries of $54,000 will be awarded every year to women journalists whose careers span more than 15 years. Two more prizes of $27,000 each will be awarded for the best journalistic work of the year and for a woman journalist who has distinguished herself.
The British-educated princess said she undertook the initiative due to the absence of women's journalism departments in Saudi universities and training institutes for women, but noted that some Saudi female journalists had “excelled despite working in difficult social and professional conditions”.
Women in Saudi Arabia face social constraints in the kingdom including a ban on driving, and cannot mix with men other than relatives or travel without written permission from their male guardian.
A UN human rights body on February 1 called on Saudi Arabia to end its system of male guardianship which it said limits the basic freedoms of women, newswire Reuters reported.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, in its first scrutiny of Saudi Arabia's gender equality record, said the kingdom's application of Sharia should not trump an international women's rights treaty that Riyadh signed in 2000.
The rules restrict women's legal rights in marriage, divorce, child custody, inheritance, property ownership and decision-making in the family, as well as choice of residency, education and jobs, the committee said.
A report submitted by the kingdom on its compliance with any relevant treaties it had signed said there was “no discrimination against women in the laws of the kingdom”.
A Saudi delegation led by Zeid Bin Abdul Mushin Al Hussein, vice president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, told the committee during a recent debate: “Human rights in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia are based on the sharia.”
The UN committee has urged Riyadh to withdraw its proviso that Islamic law take precedence over a women's rights treaty, particularly as Saudi authorities have given assurances that there is “no contradiction in substance” between the two.
The committee's conclusions were issued at the end of a three-week meeting during which it also reviewed other states.