In Saudi Arabia, there have been several forums in recent times and in various cities addressing the rights and role of women within our society.
One just concluded recently. And there have been debates at grass-root levels in trying to raise an awareness of this agenda.
What has been an encouraging sign is that the government is actively promoting such talks to deal with the changing times and reach a national consensus.
But what has materialized so far has fallen short of the expectations of many, and specially women. We are not moving fast enough is the consensus.
As far as I know, there have been few substantial issues agreed to and raised in the Shoura Council in the field of women’s rights to implement as part of our laws. Neither have there been many specifics to alleviate the immediate sufferings of women. The final drafts that have come out of these forums often fall short of recommending any immediate changes.
Now why would you suppose that is? Is there a lack of will or national consensus on such matters? Are we so diverse and tribal a society that concrete and workable proposals cannot be agreed to and attained by all members at such gatherings? Is there not a general interest among the populace to see progress on women’s issues? I don’t believe so.
Perhaps one of the barriers to achieving solid progress at such forums is to look at the grouping of the members nominated. Men make the bulk of the attendees, and it is men who habitually begin and conclude such events. It is also the men who often present papers on issues they believe to be important, and women quickly find themselves on the defensive and relegated to the backseat.
And just who are these men. Oh sure, many carry names followed with the titular Ph.D. But in my encounters with such learned men, I can truthfully state that my neighborhood tire puncture repair shop owner carries more wisdom than many of these men.
Some male delegates often have a personal score to settle, and they are not interested in change. Others rely on their interpretations and belief of their faith to filibuster any process for change.
And damned if anyone dare try to ask for more rights. On more than one occasion, the result is an alienation of the genders, the conference is doomed, and worthless issues released as the face-saving final draft.
And then there is also the composition of the female attendees. Again, where is the wide level of representation? Where are the housewives, the divorcees, the single mothers, the workingwoman, the less educated, and the economically disadvantaged? They are, of all women, perhaps the ones most affected by current restrictions. Why are only a certain class of women, and sometimes the same faces only invited?
If we could just work on getting these two nagging roadblocks out of the way, I am certain that real progress will materialize and very quickly. The notion of such wise men that more rights to women would lead to a breakdown in society is based on fear and to a degree, control.
Although more and more women are forcing their way into the professional arena, it hasn’t been without a struggle against an old age mentality that exists in a sizable portion of our population that a woman’s place is in the home.
When women begin to wear the pants in the family, men’s frailties are exposed.
And more often than not, that is not a very pretty sight.