Image Source: Associated Press
It’s a big moment for women in Saudi Arabia as they go out to vote for the very first time at the election polls on Saturday. This is the first time women voters and candidates are allowed to be a part of the electoral system of the country. Men and women were allotted separate spaces to vote as the country follows a strict segregation policy based on gender.
As many as 900 women are contesting for seats on municipal councils, which is the only public elected chamber against 6000 men who are contesting for 284 councils to local affairs which include powers and responsibilities for the street, public gardens, waste disposal and so on.
For the Saudi women, this election becomes more than about winning. Amal Badreldin al-Sawari, a 60 year old a paediatrician in central Riyadh contesting in the elections told Telegraph, “To tell you the truth, I’m not running to win; I think I have done the winning by running.”
According to the election commission data, about 119,000 women, out of a total native Saudi population of almost 21 million were registered to vote but a huge fraction of women faced a lot of problems with respect to procedures and verification hindering the entire voting process. Women have complained of difficulties such as that of proving their identity and residency and also about having limited number of registration centres, as told to Human Rights Watch.
This opportunity given to Saudi women is just one step forward towards the rights a Saudi woman can exercise. They continue to face restrictions in various things in their battle for freedom. Some resections include the ban on driving, work, marry or travel without the consent of a male family member, appear in public without covering herself or mingle with unrelated men in public places such as a restaurant.