Mashael Al Qahtani

Mashael Al Qahtani

Journalist

Saudi women challenge male-dominated maintenance works

In direct contradiction with some of the more conservative attitudes to be found in Saudi society, a handful of determined women have begun to take on men at their own game in the field of trade vocations.
Maha Al-Ajman has entered a new area that was previously limited to men. Highlighting a woman’s ability to work in vocations just as well as men, Al-Ajman opened a workshop for carpentry and plumbing, ignoring the pressures of a society that finds it difficult to accept such matters.

Al-Ajman, 30, opened her small workshop at her house and has spent long hours working with wood, sophisticated machinery and craft tools in order to gain the confidence of her  community, which refused to accept the idea of women working in manual trades like this. She also wants to encourage women to develop the confidence to penetrate these different fields, giving them new job opportunities and to helping them to express themselves and their innovations.

Society’s criticism

Al-Ajman, who holds a Bachelor's Degree in nutrition and food science, explained to Al-Arabiya Net how she began with these professions, explaining that from a very young age she would fix broken wooden doors and furniture around her home. Later, she decided to "do what she loves," and work in these professions, rather than take on jobs which she did not like.

When her new chosen career began to take off, Al-Ajman faced various challenges, the strongest of which was being criticized by a society which believes that these kinds of professions require a physical strength which women lack.

Al-Ajman pointed out the "culture of shame" prevalent in conservative society which almost prevented her from achieving her goal, whereby it is unacceptable for women to work in professions which might involve their mingling with men, whether when buying equipment or providing services.

However, Al-Ajman holds a different point of view, which is that she is solving a huge problem for families which do not allow a male plumber or carpenter to enter their house if the male guardian is absent.

Al-Ajman also highlighted her ability to coordinate her life between work, home and family, saying that she is making time to deal with her children’s different affairs, as well as taking care of the profession which she loves to practice.

Spreading the idea

Having successfully developed her personal skills and mastered the profession, Al-Ajman has spread the idea among other women by conducting training courses for Saudi girls, teaching them how to fix water pipes and taps in their homes in addition, to explaining carpentry basics, but perhaps most importantly, helping them to accept the idea that each one of them can work in a field which she likes.  

Al-Ajman stressed women’s ability to give and her aptitude to change and adapt for vocational occupations, calling on societal institutions to support women in this endeavour, and enable them to become experts in the professions they love.

Mobile phones maintenance

Al-Ajman is not the only Saudi woman to decide on joining a field of work that was usually restricted to men. Many similar examples have begun to emerge in Saudi society, such as Manal Al-Zahrani, who joined the field of mobile phone maintenance and became an expert in it. Al-Zahrani also works as spare parts distributer at the Saudi province of Al-Taif.

Al-Zahrani married soon after finishing her high school education, but circumstances took away her dream of having a family and children when her husband, who was her sole supporter, passed away. Instead of begging or having to rely completely on other people, she started a career in selling mobile phone accessories.  

Al-Zahrani told Okaz newspaper that she preferred to learn a new profession because she was fully aware that women needed a trustworthy person to when it came to maintenance of their mobile phones, especially with the enhancement of smart devices and having their personal pictures saved on them.  They needed someone honest, and who better than a woman who understood their needs?

Al-Zahrani admitted that one of the hardships she faced at the beginning of her career was the domination of men over the markets, and gaining their acceptance.

But now she propagates her business via Instagram and other social networks, as well as by participating in some exhibitions in Al-Taif city.

Al-Zahrani is currently creating her own maintenance center which will take customers from all elements of society.

Gas stations

Earlier this year, Saudi businesswoman Mervat Bukhari succeeded in ending men’s monopoly over administrating the country's gas stations when she inaugurated the first comprehensive digital gas station in Saudi Arabia.

Bukhari told the press that the purpose of the station was to provide a model that takes into account all the needs of citizens and residents in terms of cleanliness, hygiene, quality standards and service requirements which should be emulated at gas stations throughout the Kingdom in the future.

Bukhari's decision to inaugurate the station came shortly after the Royal Decree allowing women to drive was announced. She reasoned that Saudi women would be expected to use gas stations, and that therefore females must also be present in the service sectors, such as gas stations, to provide them with a sense of safety and comfort.

Women in this article

Businesswoman, poet and media personality Mervat Bukhari is the first Saudi woman to run and work at a petrol station in Saudi Arabia.

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