Where are the women in Saudi Arabia’s girls’ council?

Despite good intentions, Saudi Arabia has created a girls’ council…with no girls. 

girls council

The country held its inaugural girls’ council in al-Qassim province. A photo was released to the press, marking the very first Qassim Girls Council meeting.

The photograph shows thirteen men and no women. It has been likened to photographs of Donald Trump signing an anti-abortion policy in a room full of men.

Apparently, female members were there on the day, but held in a different room due to a state policy of gender segregation between unrelated men and women.

The women could be seen via a video link where they joined in discussing women’s issues.

Prince Faisal bin Mishal bin Saud, the province’s governor, is proud that the initiative is the first of its kind in the kingdom. He said:

“In the Qassim region, we look at women as sisters to men, and we feel a responsibility to open up more and more opportunities that will serve the work of women and girls,”

 Princess Abir bint Salman is both Prince Faisal’s wife and the head of the council, but was not present at the meeting.

Saudi Arabia has a policy of segregation between the sexes. Women still cannot drive or compete in sports. There is also a law stating that all women must have a male guardian, typically a husband, father or brother, who gives them permission to study, travel abroad or marry.

The World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap report placed Saudi Arabia 141 out of 144 countries.

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