Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Speaker Addresses Misconceptions about Saudi Women

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Speaker Addresses Misconceptions about Saudi Women

Article excerpt

THE MIDDLE EAST Institute in Washington, DC hosted an Oct. 20 discussion by Saudi sociologist Dr. Mona AlMunajjed on the status of women in Saudi Arabia. Dr. AlMunajjed, a senior adviser to the global consulting firm Booz and Company in Riyadh, addressed the question of legal rights, education and employment opportunities for Saudi women. AlMunajjed, who writes for magazines throughout the Arab world and is the author of three books-Women in Saudi Arabia Today; Significance of Arabic Names for Girls in the Arab World; and Saudi Women Speak-was fearless as she tackled this sensitive subject so loaded with misunderstanding.

Western countries have a distorted view that Saudi women lack freedom, Dr. AlMunajjed began, but "this negative image is outdated." Saudi women wear a hijab and may not drive, but the other negative misconceptions are holdovers from the 19th century Orientalists. On the contrary, she argued, her country's educational and segregational system, driving restrictions and religion are not obstacles to positive development. AlMunajjed followed up with a general overview of the gradual steps Saudi women have taken toward empowerment through education and employment. Islam, she pointed out, helped establish legal rights for women to own and manage their own assets, as well as funds from inheritance, divorce and work. …

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