Time For Saudi Women To Take Their Places! – OpEd


By Somayya Jabarti

And so a Saudi woman is promoted to an unprecedented senior editorial position of a Saudi daily newspaper, thanks to the bold initiative, visionary support and progressive thinking of two Saudi men for whom there is heartfelt genuine gratitude.

Was such a decision challenging? Dangerous? Difficult? Frightening? It is not my place to respond to such questions. However, what such steps have proven is crystal clear.

Here in Saudi Arabia, what was deemed impossible is shown to be possible. What nobody has ever done is doable. What never happened can and did happen — and will happen again.

No red lines were crossed. Nothing “haram” was committed. No laws were broken. The chains and straitjackets were all in the mind.

Now, the moment of gratitude over, the novelty passed, I look at each and every Saudi man in the eye and ask: Who is next?

Which of you is bold enough, has the vision and courage to follow suit? What prevents you from taking a similar step? Has the notion never crossed your mind? If not, why not? If it has, then what is stopping you?

A shortage of hard-working Saudi women cannot be the obstacle. It must be a matter of character — a personal issue regarding Eve’s daughters that make you hesitate. A dedicated professional would certainly know what to do — and do it.

How difficult is it to put the right person in the right place? It takes skill to recognize and acknowledge fellow professionals, regardless of gender. Only a sexist would do otherwise.

Or is it a matter of control?

Please do not tell me it is a fear of women? Women have been there from your conception to your birth. We have been by your side from your very first breath, as mothers, sisters, grandmothers, wives, aunts, grand aunts, partners and daughters.

We are now in the year 2011. Surely ample time has passed to overcome any femmophobia!

And please do not use religion as an attempt to justify depriving your Saudi sisters of their rightly deserved professional places. Muslim women fill countless pages of Islamic history. As a Muslim, when will you treat your fellow Muslims, as you would want to be treated? When will the ignorance, arrogance, and male chauvinism end? And when will the God-approved equality, and justice begin?

Where the media is concerned, Saudi women have worked the field for at least 20 years. Those before me paved a path I am walking. And they have done the work — reported, edited, designed, audio-edited, researched, interviewed, broadcasted, photographed. How much longer must we wait before another woman takes her rightful place in a leading media job?

A phenomenon or exceptional, I am not. I was simply fortunate: A progressive editor-in-chief, Khaled Almaeena, and a supportive chairman, Prince Faisal ibn Salman, who were both “man enough” (cliché intended) to break new ground and make changes long overdue. Otherwise, this country is generously endowed with women who are enlightened, assertive, capable, educated, courageous and, most importantly, willing! There is an abundance of professional Saudi women qualified to fill countless leading and diverse positions.

A troubling and troublesome notion, is it? Afraid of what the wind might bring in if we widened this door that has now been opened and let others through? Surely we are not intimidated, are we, “gentlemen”?

Anyone devoid of initiative or vision, of boldness or a pioneering spirit, or without a constructive attitude toward change is, in my opinion, unfit to be sitting in any position of leadership or of any decision-making and, moreover, is incapable of fulfilling it. The lesser evil and the better good would be to step aside and make room for those who are capable of true leadership and progressive decisions. It is the likes of such that will take our country forward!

In the meantime, gentlemen, while you reflect, hopefully questioning your fitness for whatever position you hold, I take advantage of the moment to pay tribute to Saudi women — to their hard work, perseverance and their personal struggles against all odds.

I begin with the woman whom I accompanied through high school, BA, MA in the US and her Ph.D., in the UK and who as long as I can recall has always been on the move until this day: My mother — Ferdous Toufic.

Next come: Lamia Baeshen, Fatina Shaker, Samar Fatany, Amjad Reda, Shuaa Alrashed, Badria Albishr, Fareeda Farsi, Hind Baghaffar, Mariam Alghamdi, Shireen Shahata, Maha Akeel, Abeer Mishkhas, Sarah Shaban, Hana’a Alhajjar, Hayat Alghamdi, Sara Alotaibi, Hayat Sindi, Muna Abu Sulaiman, Nadia Baeshen, Faiza Amba, Kholoud Al-Qahtani, Hana Alzuhair, Hatoon Alfassy, Thoraya Obeid, Asma Siddiki, Jowhara Al-Angari, Thurayya Alurrayed, Aisha Natto, Reem Alfaisal, Suad Alhusseini Aljaffali, Afnan Fatani, Huda Alkhatib, May Dabbagh, Suhair Alqurashi, Sabah Alsafi, Rana Obaid, Heidi Alaskary, Effat Khogeir, Nahed Bashatah, Rasha Hefzi, Fatin Bundugji, Heba Fatani, Intisar Yamani, Sultana Alireza-Zahid, Nashwa Taher, Sarah Al-Ayed, Salwa Alhazza, Olfat Kabbani, Dina Sammakieh, Suzan Younis, Ebtihal Mubarak, Sana Felimban, Amina Al-Jassim, Hassna’a Mokhtar, Jihan Kilani, Razan Baker, Lulwah Shalhoub, Manal Alshareef, Faiza Toufic, Maha Orkubi, Fayza Alghanmi, Salwa Saud, Eiman Jabarti, Nahed Taher, Lina Almaeena, Muna Khazendar, Salwa Alhazza, Khawla Al-Kuraiya, Dunya Bakr Yunis, Khairiya Alsaqqaff, Nadia Alireza, Samia Alamoudi, Basmah Alomair, Elham Al-Hulaibah, Gumasha Mastoor, Nora Al-Shuhail, Samia Al-Edrisi, Danya Alhamrani, Dania Nassief, Amal Ja’afari, Ala’a Hariri, Iyla Ashadawi, Haifa Jamal’Al-Lail, Yasmin Al-Tuwaijri, Hessah Al-Muamaar, Safinaz Murhsid, Nafeesa Al-Shaibani, Maha Orkubi, Jihan Kilani, Aziza Al-Manei, Lina bint Sideeq, Huda Al-Ghoson, Hiba Dialdin, Reem Bakheet, Kholood Attar, Enas Hashani…

The list should certainly be much, much longer. The names are only those whom I’ve encountered personally or know of through Arab News.

We are your counterparts. And it is high time that our worth and our skills were recognized and given positions of responsibility and authority.

It is time for the attitudes toward women to change, starting at grassroots level, to acknowledge their hard work, their efforts and their rights.

It is time for the right person, regardless of gender, to be placed in the right position.

It is time for Saudi women to take their rightful places.

So…again I ask: Who is next?

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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