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Source : Khaleej Times

JEDDAH — Jul 31: Far from being marginalised or subordinate to men, Saudi women are dynamic, according to Princess Dima bint Turki bin Abdul Aziz.

"In the West, there is a perception that Saudi women are totally dominated by men in all spheres of life and therefore not equal to men socially and economically. It is also thought that they are protected by a combination of strict Islamic laws which have militated against progress in Saudi women’s education and employment," Princess Dima said in her address to the Talberg World Forum in Sweden recently.

"But," the Princess said, "I can assure you that the reverse is true: that Islam embraces the contributions which women are able to make. Where women in Muslim societies have been unable to hold significant positions in the labour market, the reason for this is to be found in culture rather than religion."

She stressed that women in Saudi Arabia are willing and able to take on challenges that have arisen over the past few decades and are able to achieve success in several areas of public and social life. Princess Dima said that as per 2005 official government statistics, 56 per cent of all the university graduates in the kingdom were female and 31 per cent of all managers and directors were women. It is estimated that around 40 per cent of Saudi private wealth is in female hands. In Riyadh, women own 25 per cent of real estate and in Jeddah 45 per cent. Women hold positions as deans of colleges and universities, CEOs and IT experts and 40 per cent of Saudi medical doctors are female. There are several Saudi women artists, photographers, film-makers, journalists, writers and fashion designers who have achieved positive critical acclaim both at home and abroad. "It is, of course, necessary to consider these achievements in some historical context and be aware of how limited the opportunities in education and employment were for Saudi women just one generation ago," she said.

After the first Gulf War, some economic restructuring was necessary and as a part of this restructuring there was an increase in the funding for women’s education which explains the increasing number of female graduates. The steep rise in population has led to greater competition in Saudi society making employment outside the home a financial necessity for some women.



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