World

No Girls On Saudi Arabia's 'Girls Council'

| by Simone Stover

Saudi Arabia has recently launched a "girl's council" with the goal of promoting gender equality within the country. However, the council did not, in fact, have a single girl as a member. 

According to the BBC, Saudi Prince Faisal bin Mishaal bin Saud launched the first Qassim Girls Council meeting. He expressed pride over the event, which was the first such event in the nation's history.

"In the Qassim region, we look at women as sisters to men," he said, "and we feel a responsibility to open up more and more opportunities that will serve the work of women and girls." 

He was also quick to point out that women make up half of society. 

In the past, Saudi Arabia has not had the best track record when it comes to women's equality. According to The Independent, Saudi Arabia is ranked 134 out of 145 countries for gender equality. 

Saudi Arabian women are not allowed to drive and cannot legally obtain a driver's license. Women are also required by law to have a male guardian (usually a father, brother, or husband). Women are not allowed to do such things as study, travel abroad, or marry without this guardian's approval.

In spite of its past, Saudi Arabia has been making some efforts to change the country's attitude toward women's rights. For example, on Feb. 5, The Independent reported that Saudi Arabia had hosted its own Women's Day. It lasted three days and included speakers who advocated for the end of the country's guardianship system. 

In addition, in April of 2016, the Saudi Government announced the launch of the "Saudi Vision 2030," reported CNBC. Vision 2030 is mainly an economic plan regarding the country's involvement in the oil market, but it contains plans to increase female presence in the Saudi workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent by the year 2030. 

The Qassim Girl's Council was meant to be an event that would contribute to gender equality goals such as the ones outlined in Vision 2030. However, many were shocked when actual pictures of the event were released on March 11. 

The pictures showed the 13 men on the council, but not a single woman was featured among them. This was especially shocking considering the fact that the prince's wife, Princess Abir bint Salman, the chair of the council, was also absent from the photographs. 

It was later discovered that women were indeed involved in the event. However, they were reportedly in another room and linked to the male members of the council via video. 

The pictures of the council have been shared widely via several different social media sites, with several individuals commenting on the similarities between the Saudi Arabian photo and the photo of U.S. President Donald Trump signing an abortion-related order in January. In the photo, Trump is surrounded exclusively by men.

Sources: BBC, The Independent, CNBC / Photo credit: Qassim Girls Council via BBC

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