Women in Saudi Arabia: A Feather in the Wind

February 12, 2015
02:00 pm - 03:30 pm

About the Event

Ever since his ascension to the Saudi throne in 2005, King Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz has been taking cautious steps in the field of women’s rights. Most notably in 2013, he allowed for the admittance of thirty Saudi women into the Consultative (Shura) Council, which proposes some Saudi laws. Despite such steps, the lives of Saudi women remain constricted by the guardianship system, a set of laws that explicitly discriminate based on gender and infringe upon women’s human rights. In her presentation, Maliha AlShehab presented a rejoinder to the narrative of Saudi reform by illuminating the ways in which the guardianship system affects women’s rights to education, health, employment, and freedom of movement. She offered recommendations for local and international action to redress the harmful effects of this system. Her presentation was followed by comments by Ali Al-Ahmed.


Maliha AlShehab
Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

with comments by

Ali Al-Ahmed
Institute for Gulf Affairs

moderated by

Sally Blair
International Forum for Democratic Studies


About the Speakers

Maliha AlShehab is an accomplished writer and outspoken advocate for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. A prominent social activist and community organizer with experience in the field of gender, human rights, and democracy, she has served most recently as program officer for a Washington, D.C.–based organization focusing on women’s rights. Between 2006 and 2010, she was a columnist for Al Watan, a leading Saudi newspaper, and other Arab newspapers, where her writings drew attention to the situation of women in Saudi Arabia. She is also the author of the bestselling book Saudi Woman: Image and Voice (2010). During her fellowship, Ms. AlShehab is exploring ways of bringing an end to discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia and providing them with opportunities to contribute meaningfully to civil society. As part of her efforts to raise awareness within the international community and call for change, she is writing a report on gender inequality in Saudi Arabia and developing a roadmap for empowering Saudi women. Ali Al-Ahmed is the director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs.

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