Women-only city planned for Saudi Arabia

| 11/08/2012 | 1 Reply

RT.com

Saudi Arabia is to build a new city exclusively for women. The Gulf kingdom is working on the narrow junction between strict Sharia law and the aspirations of active females who wish to pursue their own careers.

The new plan is to combine women’s desire to work in the modern age and provide a job environment that would go hand-in-hand with the country’s Sharia law. The Saudi Industrial Property Authority (Modon) has been charged to lead the country into a new era.

The ambitious mono-city is now being designed with construction to begin next year. The municipality in the Eastern city of Hafuf is expected to attract 500 million riyals (US$133 million) in investments and it will create around 5,000 jobs in the textiles, pharmaceuticals and food processing industries. There will be women-run firms and production lines for women.

Saudi Sharia law does allow women to work, given that her essential duties of homemaking should not be neglected. But in reality around 15 per cent of women are represented in the workforce, according to some estimates.

The Modon plan shadows the government’s desire for women to play a more important role in the development of the country. Among the stated objectives are to create job spots for young people.

I’m sure that women can demonstrate their efficiency in many aspects and clarify the industries that best suit their interests, their nature and their ability,” Modon’s deputy director-general, Saleh Al-Rasheed, told Saudi daily al-Eqtisadiah.

Saudi’s existing industrial cities already have factories owned by women, as well as companies that employ a small portion of the female population.

Apart from Hafuf, the Saudis are developing more women-only polis projects.

We are now working on a second industrial city for women,” said Saleh Al Rasheed. “We have plans to establish a number of women-only industries in various parts of the kingdom.

The kingdom’s rampant desire to boost its citizen workforce participation and change the women’s unemployment rate is also changing the retail landscape. The state is attempting to replace foreign salespeople with Saudi women in its female apparel shops, according to a research carried out by Booz and Co.

This summer, women started replacing sales staff in cosmetics and perfume shops, only half a year after they replaced male sales staff in lingerie stores. By the end of the year, women plan to replace their gender counterparts in stores selling abayas, the traditional black cloak worn by women.

But despite the degree of emancipation, women’s rights in Saudi Arabia are still defined by Islam and lack basic freedoms found in many Western cultures. For instance, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving.

Yet recently efforts have been made to change the societal structure in the kingdom.

Last September, King Abdullah announced that women will be able to vote and run in the 2015 local elections, and be appointed to the Consultative Assembly.

This July, women also obtained the right to represent their country at the London Olympic Games.

Category: Culture, Development Projects, Middle East & Africa, Saudi Arabia, Shariah Issues

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  1. renechang says:

    I worked for 10 years as a surgeon in Saudi Arabia and had the privilege to train the first group of Saudi women doctors to graduate. I therefore have first had experience of the triumph and problems of Saudi women emancipation. I firmly believe that while we should support their struggles, we must NOT fall into the trap of prescribing an agenda for them. Only Saudi women can decide on their agenda and fight for their own emancipation. I should like remind well-meaning western women that it was some 300 years after the industrial revolution in UK that they won the right to vote. It was in the 1970s that equal pay was passed as a law, yet western women are still paid less(see the film “Made in Dageham”). Legislation is not the answer. It was only in the 1930s that women could be doctors in the west. Yet Saudi women has the right to be doctors in the 1970s. It was my impression that the present Queen was very supportive of women’s emncipation from her press articles. Only the Saudi’s will know what is practicable and when to push.
    Read my experiences and views in Scalpel in the Sand ISBN 9780956911902.

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