Saudi Arabian women getting the vote shows work to do abroad

Women across the world are still breaking boundaries, just ask Saudi Arabian women. This week, for the first time, women will be able to vote and run for office.

The municipal election polls open on Saturday. But we shouldn’t celebrate too much. Human rights campaigners warn there is still a long way to go in the fight for gender equality in a country where discrimination is ingrained into the culture.

There are many things the women of Saudi Arabia still cannot do. “Let’s not forget that women won’t actually be able to drive themselves to the voting booths as they’re still completely banned from driving,” Karen Middleton of Amnesty International’s told The Independent.

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In Saudi Arabia women can’t leave without a chaperone. They also cannot drive a car, wear clothes or makeup that show off their beauty, freely interact with men, or compete freely in sports. The list goes on and on.

Even though the women have earned the right to vote, not all women will be able or allowed to access polling stations due to their reliance on their husbands and male relatives for transport.

“I can say that the women running are very excited. Many of them are activists. They’re businesswomen,” said Deborah Amos, International Correspondent, on National Public Radio. “And they have pushed for this. They’re also very savvy.”

In a world where men dominate the lives of women and their actions, feminist must continue to push the envelope. Even in America, women are the minority. But other developed countries, like Saudi Arabia, have it much worse and Americans can’t even hold a candle to their lack of gender equality.

“There’s been a couple of other boosts for women that are equally important. One is the government removed a ban on certain jobs that women have not been able to take,” Amos said. “But two, and this is the big one … for the first time, widowed and divorced women will be able to have control of family matters.”

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According to NPR, Saudi Arabia is the only country that prohibits women from driving a car. But other countries restrict women’s overseas travels by limiting their access to passports. Saudi Arabia may have a ways to go to begin to even consider gender equality, but one step at a time.

Many women cannot imagine having to ask permission of their husbands, sons, or brothers before receiving higher education. Feminism is the fight for gender equality, and some countries like Saudi Arabia are still fighting for basic rights of their women. And for a country so far ahead in gender equality it is difficult to understand that Americans are still afraid to culturally say they are feminists and fight for women’s rights. Especially since women in other countries are still fighting for the right to kick a soccer ball.