Women in Saudi Arabia went to the polls this morning after it was confirmed earlier this year that they would finally be allowed to vote. Saudi Arabia is the last country in the world to extend voting rights to women.
In addition to voting, women also were allowed to stand as candidates. The BBC reports that 978 women ran for office alongside 5,938 men. State media is reporting that turnout among women was high. Nearly 130,000 women registered to vote, a number that remains much smaller than the numbers of men registered to vote in the country (nearly 1.35 million men are registered) and represents 1 in 10 Saudi women.
Salma al-Rashed, the first woman who to registered to vote, told the BBC, “It felt really good. Change is a big word, but the election is the way to make sure we are really represented.”
While Saudi women shared their experiences of voting for the first time on social media, many activists noted that voting was a baby step. Women, still banned from driving, had to be driven to the polls and women seeking office presented speeches behind a partition or through a male proxy. Still, long-time women’s rights activist and academic Hatoon al-Fassi celebrated the milestone, telling the BBC, “This is a historical moment. I thank God I am living it.”
Saudi women vote at a polling center during the country’s municipal elections in Riyadh via AP.