Latifa Al-Zahrani

Latifa Al-Zahrani

Journalist

Saudi Arabia sets out to build national strategy for women

Official authorities across the Saudi leadership board, are now rallying behind an actionable national strategy for Saudi women. They are mapping out both a framework and a tiered rollout of the strategy, aimed at broadening the scope of rights and socioeconomic empowerment for Saudi women, and their more seamless inclusion in the workforce across sectors over the next few years, underpinned by the Kingdom’s National Vision 2030.

The first investment into the design of the national strategy for women was a recent research study commissioned by the consortium of Saudi authorities. The study was carried out under the supervision of the Saudi National Center for Social Studies, in cooperation with the Saudi Arabia Family Affairs Council.

Canvassing an online panel of Saudi women, the study deep dives into their opinion on issues that matter to them. It covers topical and critical issues on women’s state of affairs, rights and ambitions for the future, as well as obstacles currently impeding their self-fulfillment and capacity building ambitions.

The Saudi National Center for Social Studies, an official authority, works directly in collaboration with the minister of Labor and Social Development. Its core remit covers research and studies around the Kingdom’s social macro and macro dynamics, as well as obstacles and problems. And its output and mission largely focus on problem-solving and predictive recommendations and solutions.

In tandem, the Saudi Family Affairs Council, its board presided over by the Minister of Labor and Social Development, was set up with a focal mission of strengthening family units and ties inside the Kingdom, and building on their collective power to transform societies and communities around them – more so critically today, as the country undergoes a series of radical changes on women’s rights and affairs.

Critical issues

The survey served as a platform for women to openly and transparently express their views. A combination of rating scales and Yes/No multiple choice questions, the questionnaire was designed around gaining unrestricted access to Saudi women’s perspective on key issues  – and equally, categorical views on these issues. The survey quizzed Saudi women’s knowledge around their full legal rights. More critically, it explored their views around perceived negative repercussions of the Saudi male guardianship system on their societal role.

On a more introspective level, questions also dug deeper into women’s opinion around the power of legislative frameworks and decisions pertaining to their rights, and on their ability to guarantee their financial independence, as well as their safety and protection in workplaces and public spaces.

Particularly on the judicial framework governing women’s rights protection, the survey examined respondents’ opinion around the framework’s impartiality and ability to empower their legal rights – and more crucially, around its ability to guarantee that they enjoyed the rights they had already obtained.

Tackling the root of progress for Saudi women, the survey also explored respondents’ views on the extent to which the Kingdom’s higher education systems are balancing opportunity and access to quality education, as well as professional training and development between Saudi men and women. To this end, respondents were also asked to assess the impact of more Saudi female members on the board of the Saudi Shura Council (the consultative assembly of Saudi Arabia)  on legislations in favor of their ambitions and potential.

Accuracy checks

Despite the survey’s high levels of circulation among Saudi women on social media, many questioned the accuracy of its output and results. Respondents pointed to that the results may not necessarily represent the opinion of the large majority of Saudi women, as the survey had set neither quotas nor restrictions on the gender or nationality of participants – and as such, the sample covered by the questionnaire could have included non-Saudi women, as well as men.

Respondents called for setting restrictions on the survey sample through the questionnaire itself, and tying respondents to their national ID number, in order to guarantee the participation of only Saudi women. Others, however, considered it to be an invasive step that, once exposes the identity of respondents, defeats the arbitrary sampling and honest purpose of the survey.

National Vision 2030

The survey comes in time for the Saudi leadership’s steadfast move on its National Vision 2030, which has already outlined parameters for a sub-strategy focused on Saudi women’s empowerment and inclusion over the years to come. The latter focuses on a multi-faceted and critical role for women in building and transforming Saudi’s socioeconomic makeup in the future.

It does so by focusing on scaling their economic developmental contribution through their workforce entry, providing them with growth professional environments, and creating high performance cultures powered by their creativity. More importantly, it outlines actionable plans for skill development and rehabilitation for Saudi women.

The Saudi National Vision 2030 reads: “Saudi women are yet another great asset. With over 50 percent of our university graduates being female, we will continue to develop their talents, invest in their productive capabilities and enable them to strengthen their future and contribute to the development of our society and economy.”

Recent months saw a spate of radical decisions and actions pertaining to the state of affairs of Saudi women. Many of their rights, which had been long withheld from them for years, were reinstated; from the right to drive, to the access to governmental services and work without the consent of a guardian, to the attendance of sports and artistic events, to laxer conditions on their mobility.

To participate in the survey, click here

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