Academic journal article Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies

Education and Women Empowerment in Saudi Arabia 1

Academic journal article Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies

Education and Women Empowerment in Saudi Arabia 1

Article excerpt

Since the last quarter of the twentieth century women empowerment had become a burning issue around the globe. Empowerment has been regarded by social scientists as " the only effective answer to oppression, exploitation, injustice and other maladies with which our society is beset" (Beteille, 1999). Women empowerment as a concept "emerged from several important critics and debates generated by women ' s movement throughout the world during the 1980' s, when feminists, particularly in the Third World, were increasingly discontent with the largely apolitical and economistic ' WID ' [women in development], ' WAD ' [women and development] and ' GAD ' [gender and development] models in prevailing development interventions " ( Batliwala, 2007 ). In the Millennium Declaration, at the Millennium Summit in New York in the year 2000, world leaders promised " to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women as effective ways to combat poverty, hunger and disease and to stimulate development that is truly sustainable" (United Nations, 2013).

Of the many ways suggested by world renowned activists, intelligentsia, Nobel Laureates, politically influential people etc. that leads to empowerment, education had been both identified and advocated as the most important factor that can accomplish the empowerment objective. Nelson Mandela, had famously said; " Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world" (Duncan, 2013). Education had also been called as the base of empowerment and " may begin an ? empowerment process ' if it expands women's knowledge and understanding, self- confidence and awareness of gender equity" (Katie McCracken, 2015). In "The Fourth World Conference on Women" held in Beijing in 1995, women ' s literacy was recognized pivotal to empowering women ' s participation in decision making in society and to improve their families' well - being. The report mentioned that;

Investing in formal and non- formal education and training for girls and women, with its exceptionally high social and economic return, has proved to be one of the best means of achieving sustainable development and economic growth that is both sustained and sustainable (United Natios, September 1995).

In the Middle East, a lot of social change had occurred as " access to education ha[d] improved dramatically over the past few decades, and there ha[d] been a number of encouraging trends in girls' and women' s education" (Farzaneh Roudi- Fahimi, 2003). As a part of the Middle East Saudi Arabia had also witnessed a major transition over the last century by empowering its women subjects which led to a dramatic social change that not many decades back would have been unthinkable of. In 2014, Saudi Arabia surprised the world with its surprising social transition when its ? Ministry of Education ' released statistics which showed that more than half of the students graduating from the universities inside the Kingdom were the countries ' women subjects and a significant number of female students were enrolled outside the country, most of them preferring to study in the United States.

University education for Saudi women in recent years has witnessed a tremendous development at the quantitative and qualitative levels, both in terms of development programs, specific initiatives or strategic plans for women since the foundation of the Kingdom by late King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud--- The Ministry of Education has worked hard to overcome the difficulties [confronting] Saudi women ' s excellence in various stages of education, to promote their scientific and intellectual standards and emphasize their presence on the national development roadmap-** and *** scientific leadership locally and abroad. Women have accounted for a percentage of (51.8%) of the number of registered students in Saudi universities, and achieved a remarkable increase in the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Program for Foreign Scholarships (Saudi Press Agency, 2015). …

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