For the first time in history, two women have registered to vote in Saudi Arabia.
Jamal Al-Saadi and Safinaz Abu Al-Shamat each registered to vote in the third municipal elections, which will occur in December. “The participation of the Saudi women in the municipal elections as voters and candidates was a dream for us,” Jamal Al-Saadi, a businesswoman from Madinah, told the Saudi Gazette (via MSNBC). “The move will enable Saudi women to have a say in the process of the decision-making.”
Shamat, a teacher at a girls’ school in the city of Makkah, was the first woman to arrive at the voting center. “I was the first to register and the first to obtain a voter’s card in Makkah.” Four other Makkah women also registered.
Previously, only men were allowed to vote in Saudi Arabia. From the Washington Post:
In 2011, the now-late King Abdullah announced that women would be allowed to vote and run as candidates starting in 2015. Municipal elections, which began in 2005, are the only such contests in the monarchy, and those elected have limited authority. The share of elected municipal council seats will increase from one-half to two-thirds this year; the rest of the seats are appointed.
While the right to vote is a huge step forward, there are still many restrictions currently in place for Saudi women. For instance, women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are not legally allowed to drive cars. They also need a “male guardian’s” permission to travel or work. Even though about 60% of Saudi university graduates are female, only 15% of women have jobs.
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Image via AP.