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Saudi Woman Speaks for Those Who Cannot

An important part of fighting for women’s rights and gender equality is making people aware of the injustices that are present in today’s society. This can be done in various ways: by word of mouth, non-profit organizations, or public events.

One way that we here at NYMM are particularly fond of is the written word. Using writing as a medium to bring about gender equality is the reason we do what we do, and we are not alone. Dr. Hala Al-Dosari is a writer, scholar, and researcher that advocates for women’s rights, with a focus on women’s health issues, including domestic violence.

Al-Dosari’s articles bring awareness to the injustice that she sees and experiences in Saudi Arabia. Her job is extremely important, because many of us in the United States can’t imagine the extent of discrimination present in Saudi Arabian law. Al-Dosari gives a voice to the Saudi women who are rendered voiceless in their own country by writing their experiences for a worldwide audience to read.

In one article, Al-Dosari discusses the system of male guardianship that keeps many Saudi women trapped in their homes. She explains, “The male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia is not just law: it is a set of bylaws and state-sanctioned discriminatory policies and practices that restrict a woman’s ability to have a wide range of choices unless permitted by her male guardian – typically a father, husband, brother or even a son.” Al-Dosari unflinchingly lays out the discrimination that women face, presenting the laws that diminish women to second-class citizens.

Al-Dosari continues by examining the guardianship system and its implications for Saudi Arabian society. She argues that removing the guardianship system would stimulate the economy because it would be tapping into the potential of its women. Her insights on the economic impact of the guardianship system are followed by the responses of government officials to her views, which were defensive and dismissive.

She then includes a story of her young nephew who witnessed discrimination against women, saying, “Similar, more subtle, messages in Saudi Arabia’s all male-dominated spheres are rarely challenged by intimidated youth, including my loving nephew, for fear of pressure from peers or authority figures.”

The power of the law system in Saudi Arabia means that children are afraid to voice their opinions, desires, and concerns. Al-Dosari aptly points out that if this does not change, if children are taught to be afraid, there can never be true progress.

Al-Dosari’s other articles cover similar topics that are focused on initiating change and bringing awareness to other parts of the world. The importance of her work cannot be understated, a fact that was recognized in 2016 when Al-Dosari was honored by Freedom House, as a co-winner of its Freedom Award.

Along with her written work, Al-Dosari directs and maintains an Arabic women’s rights advocacy project online. Al-Dosari’s tireless work plays an essential role in the future of gender equality.

Featured Image by Herry Lawford on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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