Monday, February 16, 2009

Saudi Woman Minister

Huge news this week - for the first time in the history of the Saudi Kingdom, a woman has been appointed to a government position. Her appointment was amongst a number of new changes introduced by King Abdullah.

From Arab News:
"History was made yesterday with the appointment by royal decree of a Saudi woman, Nora bint Abdullah Al-Fayez, as the deputy education minister for girls’ affairs.

Al-Fayez began her career as a schoolteacher in 1982 working her way up to become in 2001 the director general of the women’s section at the Institute of Public Administration. Her long experience in the educational sector and her husband’s encouragement and support paved the way for her to reach this position.

Many Saudis welcomed the new deputy minister expressing hope in her appointment. A woman educator working in a supervisory position said this was a wise decision to serve and develop the Kingdom’s educational sector."

From the Canberra Times:
"Women's rights improved slightly, with women now allowed to study law, obtain their own identification cards, check into hotels alone and register businesses without first proving that they have hired a male manager, the report said."

From the Australian:
"Norah al-Fayez, an official at the Saudi Institute for Public Administration, became Deputy Education Minister for Women's Education - the most senior job ever granted to a woman in the Muslim kingdom."

From the Sydney Morning Herald:
"Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has reshuffled his cabinet and chosen the first-ever woman deputy-minister for the conservative monarchy, the government announced on Saturday. The appointment of al-Faiz is a step forward for the world's most conservative Muslim country which does not even allow women to drive cars."

From the News International:
"Saudis on Sunday cheered King Abdullah’s sweeping government shakeup as a bold step forward, a day after he sacked two powerful conservative religious figures and named the country’s first-ever woman minister.

‘Bold reform,’ Al-Hayat newspaper said in its headline, while the Saudi Gazette heralded the shakeup as a ‘boost for reform’ in the Muslim kingdom.

Women’s groups have demanded more rights and the breaking down of barriers that limit their career opportunities; the public has clamoured for movies to be shown in cinemas, banned for 30 years; and rights groups have accused Islamic judges of harsh and inconsistent judgements.

And last week Princess Amira al-Taweel, the wife of Saudi tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, complained publicly that while she can drive anywhere else in the world, she cannot take the wheel of a car in her own country, because women are banned from driving.

But the symbolism of the king’s changes is bound to have an impact. The most symbolic was the naming of veteran educationalist Norah al-Fayez as deputy education minister for women — the most senior job ever granted a woman in the Muslim kingdom.

‘She is one of the leading ladies of the country,’ Mohammad al-Zulfa, outgoing member of the Shura Council, told AFP. Even so, the move for women did not go as far as some expected. In January, Saudi media had reported that the new members of the Shura Council would include six women, who have not been represented on the council in the past."

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