Laura Bashraheel & Fatima Muhammad
JEDDAH — King Abdullah’s appointment of 30 women to the consultative Shoura Council in decrees announced Friday marked a historic first as he sustained his reforms push with deliberate empowerment of women.
Saudi women have long waited to be allowed full-membership in the all-male bastion, instead of being mere consultants, and their hopes of being part of the Kingdom’s growth has been realized with Friday’s decrees.
The decrees give women a 20 percent quota in the Shoura Council, a body appointed by the king to advise him on policies and legislation. One decree amended an article in the council’s statute to allow women to be members while the other named the 150 members, among them 30 women.
Each specialized committee will include no less than five members chosen by the Council including women. Women in Shoura will have the same rights as men and they are committed to duties, responsibilities and direct assignments.
The announcement brought with it reactions that ranged between joyous and anxious. But most women were optimistic of complementing the men’s efforts in nation building.
Among the chosen 30 women is Hayat Sindi, one of the world’s leading biotechnologists and a trailblazer in the field of science. She said that including women in the Council is a positive step as women need to be present and part of decision-making in the country.
“I’m very honored to be one of the first women selected for the Shoura Council. We need to be present and participate equally,” she said.
Sindi, who is in the field of scientific research, is hoping to focus on scientific innovation, entrepreneurship and in presenting both women and youth.
“We need to work with other members of the Council as a team. We want to encourage women who are determined to work hard and encourage men to collaborate,” she added.
Sindi also said that the decree comes from the King’s vision for a prosperous Kingdom and society.
Thuraya Al-Arrayed, a poet, columnist and consultant, said that she is glad to be given the trust as a female member of the new Council. “I hope this opportunity will give us the chance to complete the Council and make improvements,” she said.
Al-Arrayed hopes to touch on all issues concerning citizens and at the same time help solve them. “We will try to find solutions and give priority to the given issues,” she explained.
“Women are part of this society. It’s not the question of women, it’s the question of society as a whole,” she added.
Al-Arrayed also believes that with the participation of women the Council will have a complete point of view from both sides.
According to her, the presence of women in the Council will unveil a number of women issues that have been cloaked and will help discuss real issues. “There will be some women whose presence will not add anything to the Council; this is normal just as some men who are there and having been doing nothing.”
Suhaila Zain Al-Abideen, a social activist, said that this percentage has to be increased to 50 percent as women constitute more than half of the population. “We have many qualified women and they can be valuable addition to the Council.”
Al-Abideen, who for years has been advocating women’s involvement in the Council, said, “It’s a start (20 percent), but this percentage has to increase for women to be effective in the Council.”
Al-Abideen said that the challenges that women issues will face would be if the selected women just opt for the status quo and are not pro-change. “On top of that, if a woman provides a project that supports women it might face challenges when men at the Council are not for it. If we increase the percentage of women in the council to be 50 percent then we can have fair voting system.”
Naila Attar, a businesswoman and a social activist who was known for her efforts to help women get involved in the Municipal Council elections, said this is a “forward step.” She added that as long as these women are coming from different professional backgrounds they are qualified to discuss any issues tabled in the Shoura.
Attar added that women presence in the Council is “essential as women represent half of society and should have access to be able to discuss society’s issues.”
According to her, the Council is still measuring up to public’s expectancy and now the women presence will help it become more “mature and advanced.”
Attar added that unfortunately the media and the public tend to focus more on the failure of women and tend to mark their mistakes.
Hatoon Al-Fassi, a history professor and a columnist, said that this decision marks a recognition of women’s important role in politics and also a recognition of women citizenship.
Madawi Al-Hassoun, a businesswoman, described the decision as “brave.” She elaborated: “The only way for a society to develop is through the involvement of its men and women.
“The presence of women in the Council means that women will be more involved in the decision-making and this is just gratifying.
“We are sure that there will be a difference in the Council now, with the women playing their role. It will be remarkable and they deserve it.”
The 30 female members of the Shoura Council:
1. Dr. Ilham Mahjoub Ahmad Hassanain
2. Dr. Amal Salamah Sulaiman Al-Shaman
3. Dr. Thuraya Ahmad Obeid
4. Dr. Thuraya Ibrahim Hussein Al-Arrayed
5. Dr. Al-Jawharah Ibrahim Muhammad Bubshait
6. Dr. Hamdah Khalaf Muqbil Al-Enizi
7. Dr. Hanan Abdulraheem Mutlaq Al-Ahmadi
8. Dr. Hayat Sulaiman Hassan Sindi
9. Dr. Khowlah Sami Saleem Al-Krai’
10. Dr. Dalal Mukhlid Jahaz Al-Harbi
11. Dr. Zainab Muthanna Abdoh Abu Talib
12. Princess Sarah Bint Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz
13. Dr. Salwa Abdullah Fahd Al-Hazza’
14. Dr. Fatimah Muhammad Al-Qarni
15. Dr. Fadwa Salamah Owdah Abu Mraifah
16. Dr. Firdous Saud Muhammad Al-Saleh
17. Dr. Lubna Abdulrahman Al-Tayib Al-Ansari
18. Dr. Latifa Othman Ibrahim Al-Sha’lan
19. Dr. Mastourah Obeid Al-Shammari
20. Dr. Muna Abdullah Saeed Al Mushait
21. Dr. Muna Muhammad Saleh Al-Dowsari
22. Princess Moudhi Khaled Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
23. Dr. Moudhi Muhammad Abdulaziz Al-Deghaithir
24. Dr. Nihad Muhammad Saeed Ahmad Al-Hibshi
25. Dr. Noorah Abdulaziz Abdulrahman Al-Mubarak
26. Dr. Noorah Abdullah Ibrahim Al-Asqah
27. Dr. Noorah Abdullah Abdulrahman Al-Adwan
28. Huda Abdulrahman Saleh Al-Hilaisi
29. Dr. Haya Abdulaziz Nasser Al-Manee’
30. Dr. Wafa Mahmood Abdullah Taibah