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Saudi women take pictures with their mobile phones in the Old City of Riyadh. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP/GettyImages)

Saudi Arabia Doesn’t Need An International Women’s Day

Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, March 9

The debate over the empowerment of women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been ongoing for years. On one hand, the state believes that women are an essential element of the nation’s power. On the other hand, no real projects have been implemented on the ground with the aim of empowering women and providing them with a safe environment that would allow them to fully integrate into society. A key improvement took place with the launch of the kingdom’s Vision 2030, which actively promotes the social, economic and political empowerment of women as a means to advance the nation’s well-being. One of its stated goals, for example, is to increase women’s participation in the workforce from 22% to 30%. This might seem like a small change, yet it’s an important one, nonetheless. It reminds us just how important these reforms are and what great potential they have. Saudi women have witnessed major improvements to their everyday lives. The measures taken by their country to protect and empower their rights, which no one could have imagined just a few years ago, have become a full-fledged reality. Just a few weeks ago, Saudi Arabia’s first female ambassador was appointed to the United States, one of the nation’s most important diplomatic posts. Last year, women were finally allowed to travel and drive without the supervision of a male guardian. The state has also taken great action in combating domestic violence. What is unique about all of these reforms is that they took place not because of external pressure, but due to a genuine desire at home, within Saudi society, to become more tolerant and inclusive. The biggest testament to this is the strong support these initiatives received among the wider public. This International Women’s Day, Saudi Arabia is experiencing an unparalleled improvement to the rights of its women. There is still a long way to go, but there is also a strong coalition within Saudi society that supports these changes. Saudi Arabia isn’t interested in mimicking other nations’ experience of empowering women, but rather to forge its own way. It is certainly on the right path. –Salman al-Dossari

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