Manama: Women made their mark in Saudi politics when they took their 30 seats at the Shura Council session for the first time in Saudi Arabia.
The much-anticipated opening of the sixth term of the advisory council went smoothly and the women members consolidated their presence by securing three senior positions in the Council’s committees.
Dr Thurayya Obaid was named deputy chairperson of the Human Rights and Petitions Committee, Dr Zainab Abu Talib, deputy chairperson of the Information and Cultural Committee and Dr Lubna Al Ansari, deputy chairperson of the Health Affairs and Environment Committee. All the 30 women were sworn in last week, alongside their male peers, by King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz in a historic ceremony. Speaker Dr Abdullah Al Shaikh welcomed the women and the other new members and congratulated them on being appointed to the Council.
Addressing the media, Deputy Speaker Fahd Al Hamad called upon all Saudis to help the women members succeed. “The decision by the country’s leader to appoint women to the Shura Council requires cooperation from all citizens and all those who are keen on the country’s interests to contribute to the success of this experience,” Al Hamad said. The women members are well aware of their responsibilities and will be endeavouring to rise to the challenges and opportunities, he said.
Last week, some of the women members said that the personal status law and the full rights of divorcées and widows would top the list of concerns. They insisted that they were “fully aware of the plight of divorced women and the women who are deprived of their rights to inheritance due to customs and traditions that have nothing to do with Islam”.
On February 13, 30 women were sworn in to the 150-member advisory council. The members said that they were “fully aware of the plight of divorced women and the women who are deprived of their rights to inheritance due to customs and traditions that have nothing to do with Islam.” “We are also conscious of the suffering of battered women and of the need to activate the laws on the civil rights of Saudi women,” they said in remarks published by Saudi daily Al Madinah on Thursday. “It is a formidable task and a huge responsibility, especially after we swore to God to assume it to the best of our capabilities,” Dr Ferdous Bint Saud Al Saleh, said. “We hope to be up to the pledges and expectations and we certainly need prayers and support,” she said, quoted by the daily. Dr Haya Al Manee said that there was not yet a specific agenda, but insisted that social issues would figure high on the members’ action plans. The women appointed to the Shura Council are among the country’s elite with 27 holding PhD degrees. Two are princesses from the royal family well known for their work with charity foundations. Following the appointment of the women, Saudi Arabia jumped from the 184th rank on the world’s list of the percentage of women in parliament to the 80th place, well ahead of the US, Ireland, Russia, India and Brazil.