Twenty women have been elected for local government body seats in the first elections in Saudi Arabia that were open to female voters and candidates. Associated Press reported that the women hail from different backgrounds and sections of society. Women in Saudi Arabia are still not allowed to drive or make major life choices without male consent, so the election result is seen as a big step forward in women’s rights in the kingdom. More than 900 women contested in the elections held on Saturday.
The capital, Riyadh, saw the most number of female winning candidates at four, while the Eastern Province voted in two women. The city of Jeddah elected two women, as did the conservative region of Qassim. Many women candidates promised more nurseries, better day-care hours for working mothers and better youth community centres, as well as greener cities and better roads.
Female candidates were not allowed to speak to male voters, among the several difficulties they faced during campaigning, but the historic municipal elections have brought hope for further reform and the involvement of more women to run the country. The decision to allow women to vote had been made by the late King Abdullah, who had appointed 30 women to the country’s advisory Shura Council before his death in January. In the history of the kingdom, these are the third-ever elections held in Saudi Arabia.