Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
Two days ago, Saudis took part in municipal election across the Kingdom. This wasn’t the first time that local bodies’ election took place in Saudi Arabia but this time around it was a bit different. Few years ago, the Arab world experienced most violent winds of “change,” which literally turned the region almost upside down and continues to threaten the Middle East. Many wrongly predicted deep impact of those regional developments on Saudi Arabia. Contrary to those expectations, Saudi Arabia emerged as an island of peace and stability amid turmoil. The Saudi leadership remained unfazed with the regional developments and went ahead with its political and socioeconomic reforms. In short, life in the Kingdom remained more or less unaffected. One of the many steps, the Kingdom took as part of its socioeconomic reforms, was granting women the right to register for vote and to run for public offices. Strangely, this decision created more waves outside the Kingdom. Many saw it as a small step for Saudi women but it proved to a prelude to giant leaps for Saudi Arabia and Saudi women. This year’s election was different because it reflected the stability of the Kingdom. These polls reflected the steady progress in social reforms that were further improve the status of the women and give both men and women more say in the decision-making process. People, who don’t know much about the Kingdom and live outside, should know that womenfolk have always played a crucial role in the Kingdom. Let me tell those people a few things from the pages of the history of Saudi Arabia. Many in the Kingdom still remember Princess Noura Bint Abdulrahman who was born in 1875 and was the sister of the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Abdul Aziz. She was one of aunts of Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Salman. She was known as the woman who had the brains of 40 men or in other words “a woman equal to 40 intelligent men”. And as life went on in the Kingdom more Saudi women from either the Saudi royal family or other families played major roles in taking the Kingdom to new levels of progress through decisions that were associated with women issues. For example during King Saud's reign, two of his daughters with other women in the Kingdom played an important role in introducing women education. They built schools and established many venues to help women in their daily lives. Few years after that and during King Faisal’s reign, it was Princess Effat who took the lead in establishing a uniform educational system for women in the Kingdom. In other words, Saudi women have always played an important role in the Kingdom. This year’s election was different because both men and women strived to serve the country and safeguard its achievements. The manner in which the polls were held shows that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman is taking socioeconomic reforms to a new level so as to ensure steady growth of the Kingdom in all spheres of life. These polls reminded us of the day when the first batch of women got enrolled in the education system. With the passage of time, the ratio of women enrolled in universities is equal if not more than men. You never know, what does future has in store for our womenfolk. Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. A Different Municipal Election in Kingdom reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.