A wave of hope swept through Saudi Arabia when the government there announced in early August that it would soon extend significant new rights to women.
The changes, which started applying at the end of August, were anticipated to dramatically change the conservative kingdom’s so-called guardianship system, allowing women to get passports, travel, work, keep custody of minors and register births and divorces without the permission of their husbands or other male relatives.
After the announcement of seismic changes to the “guardianship” system, readers in Saudi Arabia shared their hopes.
Finally free to chase dreams
I couldn’t stop crying the whole day. I didn’t expect all the closed roads to open at once by one decision.
Now I should be able to travel and complete my studies at an American university. This is my wish that I have been trying to turn into reality for years.
— Zeina, Medina, Saudi Arabia
This is truly remarkable. A while ago, I was worried that my father would not approve if I wanted to travel. But now I am not afraid of anyone. I live normally as any woman in a normal and civilized society.
— Reem, Taif, Saudi Arabia
A chance to be independent
Now I don’t fear marriage. The man I will marry shan’t be my guardian, nor my master. He will be my equal. Now I have a good job with a great income, a job I never dreamed of five years ago.
— Haya, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Personally, as a working mom, I am pleased with the new regulations, especially the ones that ease the child custody legal requirements for the mother.
Traveling isn’t a priority, at least for me. It’s having the capability to be a mother for my children, and act on it. That was what I was waiting for, and I am so happy about it.
— Norah, Saudi Arabia
Men welcome change
In the past, men had to bear all responsibilities and do everything, leaving them with little time to perform other tasks. As men, we are forced to dedicate a large part of our lifetime for things that women could do as well as men. The new changes certainly will give women strength and visibility to become really half of society.
— Badr al-Najim, Al-Dammam, Saudi Arabia
More reforms are needed
Of course, the government rules play a big part, but so do society and our culture. We need to change that. We need to stop the ideology that oppresses women in the name of religion or pride — not just in Saudi Arabia but around the world.
To me that is the hardest thing to achieve because I live in it and I face this on a daily basis. It can ruin lives and destroy hope for young girls when they’re raised to obey a certain idea and when their worth depends on social acceptance.
— Tala O., Saudi Arabia