Women should be partners in shaping future
By LAURA BASHRAHEEL | ARAB NEWS
Published: Mar 23, 2010 00:09 Updated: Mar 23, 2010 00:09
But society denies them education thinking they are only meant to take care of
husbands and kids
JEDDAH: In spite of educational reforms and improvements in the role of women
in Saudi society, many old-fashioned families continue to feel women are only
suited to become wives and mothers.
History was made last year with the appointment, by royal decree, of a Saudi
woman, Nora Al-Fayez, as deputy education minister for girls' affairs.
Despite women being recognized in the field of education, some families still
feel their womenfolk should only busy themselves with household chores and
Sanaa Hamad, 26, was forced to drop out of university in Jeddah by her brother
during her final exams. "I suffered immense psychological pain after he killed
off my dreams of getting a degree," she said.
Hamad's parents encouraged her to go to university. She had exhibited herself
as a bright student at high school and so selected biochemistry as her major.
Some of her relatives, however, disapproved of this and tried convincing her
father not to allow her to continue with her education, saying it was
unbefitting for a young woman.
"My father supported me and ignored our relatives. Then my brother suddenly
decided I shouldn't continue with my education and that I should marry a
cousin. He said women are only good for marriage and for looking after
children," she said.
The Kingdom is presently seeing an increase in education facilities for women
with many going abroad on university scholarships. However, with little
development projects taking place in villages, an overall change in attitude
Amal, who asked her last name not be published, said she was elated when she
secured a place at a university in Riyadh. "I'm from a village near Riyadh and
was excited to tell my dad. However, it was enough for him that I had got a
high school degree," she said.
Amal's father told her she had studied enough and that a girl should preoccupy
herself with looking after her husband. "I'm still hoping to continue my
education. There is always time and hope," she said.
Fatima Ali, 19, said she hopes to see the day when people from rural
backgrounds become more aware of the importance of female education. "I dreamed
of going to college, but was shocked by the way my father and brother reacted.
It felt I was in the Stone Age," she said.
"My father believes it's enough for women to just read and write. As for my
brothers, they believe women have two places to go to - either their husband's
house or the grave," she added.
Fatima wants the authorities to play a bigger role in raising awareness about
female education, especially in rural areas. "Women in cities like Riyadh and
Jeddah are traveling abroad to study and they are getting better education. We
want the same," she said.
Dr. Samir Arar, a counseling psychologist at Maharat Center and professor of
psychology at King Abdulaziz University, said women need to improve their
skills before they become wives and mothers, and that education is the key.
"Society needs educated women in order to be balanced," he added. Arar said
people should never forbid their daughters from continuing their education
because no one knows what the future holds. "A married woman can end up
divorced or widowed and in both scenarios she would become the main breadwinner
for her family," he said, adding that education and skills will help women find
work and cross such obstacles.
Arar believes society should not confine women to being only mothers and wives
but partners in shaping the future. "It's unfortunate and sad that women are
being stopped from education and pursuing careers," he said.
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