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29 October 2004

Things do change II

Charter on Women’s Rights Getting Ready
P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News

JEDDAH, 29 October 2004 — The King Abdul Aziz National Dialogue Center in Riyadh is drafting a charter on women’s rights, its President Saleh Al-Hosayn said. The charter will be considered a reference on women in Saudi Arabia. He said the recommendations of the third national dialogue on women in Madinah would be given precedence in the charter. He did not say when the charter would be ready.The Madinah dialogue, which was held in June, ended with a call to respect the equality of sexes granted by Islam. “Islam guarantees equality and does not differentiate between people based on race, sex or color,” Hosayn said while opening the forum.“It is a natural situation achieved by ensuring that people enjoy the same legal rights, dignity and obligations,” he added. But he had warned that women working outdoors would not find enough time to raise their children and demanded a balance between women’s rights and their obligations. Both male and female participants called for a review of the taboo shrouding local customs governing women’s lives. However, defenders said it was such customs that provided a sense of identity to Saudi people.

“The forum lifted a virtual taboo that has existed for years about discussing women’s issues. It initiated a social dialogue and triggered and renewed interest in women’s rights and roles in the future of Saudi Arabia,” says Samar Fatany, a Saudi radio journalist based in Jeddah. “The dialogue reflected the Saudi leadership’s opinion that women are an integral part of the reform process. It conveyed the message very clearly that both men and women are partners in reform,” she added.

Saudi women play an active role in society despite the problems facing them. They own some 20,000 firms — some five percent of all registered businesses — ranging from ordinary retail businesses to various types of industry.


If this leads to change then it is good news!

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