How social media is changing women's rights in Saudi Arabia

Saudi women take photos of their children during a ceremony to celebrate Saudi Arabia's Independence Day in Riyadh September 23, 2009. (Tribes of the World photo/Flickr)

“For peace comes dropping slow,” wrote W. B. Yeats in “The Lake of Innisfree.” For the women of Saudi Arabia, he might have said the same thing about change. Progress in the fight for social and political rights is glacial, especially when it comes to pushing back against the long-dominant cultural norm of “male guardianship,” whereby decisions affecting women are made without their input or collaboration.

In 2015 Saudi women managed to acquire the right to vote (see Am., 1/4) in a limited fashion through a decree by the late King Abdullah—but that did not go far enough for them. They want to have rights like modern women everywhere, including the rights to drive and to work. To that end an activist named Hala Al-Dosari has put the power of social media to work to persuade King Salman to end the practice of male guardianship. Almost 15,000 signatures have been collected after a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #IAmMyOwnGuardian.

Advertisement

There are signs for hope. The deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is reportedly more receptive to the winds of change. He has a plan called Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. Under this initiative, Saudi women will have a larger role, especially in the labor market. And while some Islamic clerics are firmly against such change, there are others who are willing to consider it, saying that guardianship has more to do with governmental policy than religious dictates. Change, however slow, will be welcome when it comes—and for Saudi women, it can not be fast enough.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

Women served as deacons in Europe for about a millennium in a variety of ministerial and sacramental roles.
Brandon SanchezJanuary 15, 2019
In preparation for the gathering in Abu Dhabi, I find myself asking why my conversations with the future Pope Francis so powerfully affected both of us.
Abraham SkorkaJanuary 15, 2019
Photo: iStock
Included on the list is John T. Ryan, S.J., who from 1989 to 1994 was an associate editor for development at America.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 15, 2019
Did you ever wonder why Jesus was baptized? What sins did Jesus have to repent of? Nothing.
James Martin, S.J.January 14, 2019