JEDDAH – Society’s message to women approaching their 30’s is clear: Marriage is your only salvation. As more and more women head into the job market, many put their careers before their personal lives but handling the social stigma associated with being unmarried in Saudi society is no easy task.
Twenty-eight-year-old Arwa Ali holds a master’s degree and works in a private company and is confident she has a bright future. Ali says she has become an embarrassment for her parents who often struggle to convince people she is single because of career aspirations.
“I’m happy being single. My extended family thinks no one has proposed to me and whenever there is a marriage in the family, they are careful to not let me know because they think I’ll get jealous. My younger cousin got married at 20 and my aunt consoled me because she thought I was upset. They don’t understand that I want to advance my career before I settle down,” she said.
Echoing her words was 27-year-old Nisreen Zied who works in an advertising agency in Jeddah. Zied enjoys having a full-time job and says she’ll marry when the right person comes along.
“My parents put a lot of pressure on me to get married because when people ask them why I’m still single they didn’t know what to say. Most of my family married young and a great majority ended up being divorced. I’ll get married when I find the right guy,” she said.
Many women work to support their families, something they say society does not consider. When 31-year-old Aisha’s parents divorced, she was forced to find a job to support herself and her mother. Aisha wants to get married but is waiting for her brothers to finish school and find jobs.
“My parents divorced when I was 20 and I had to find a job. I want to get married but I’m worried who will provide for my mother.
Everyone knows how tough things were for our family after my parents’ divorce and the sacrifices I made to support everyone but they keep insisting that I should get married.”