Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day and Saudi women

International Women's day is not really celebrated in Saudi-Arabia. It's like any other day in the lives of the Saudi women. However I wanted to write on this day and remind all women, regardless of our nationality, race or religion to be grateful of what we have.

Saudi women are often portayed as the world's most oppressed, living miserable lives with no human rights. However when we put things into a worldwide perspective, Saudi women are actually quite lucky and priviledged.

Just for an example lets look at the life of a woman in rural Nepal. When a girl is born she will likely be seen as a burden to her family, she will not be welcomed or celebrated. A son is always better. As soon as early childhood she will start working in the fields and at home, serving the men of the family.She will never learn to read and write. Her honored brothers will spend their days playing and roaming about as they wish. Her father will likely be away most of the time working abroad leaving all household duties to the mother and daughters. He might bring back HIV as a souvenir from his travels. The men in the family will treat the women like slaves, themselves chatting, smoking and drinking all day while the women work an estimated 18 hours every single day of the year. As the little girl grows older she will be married off when she reaches puberty. If she or other women of the family are having their menses, they will be sent to a horrible outhouse for the time of their courses because they are considered dirty.
When the young girl falls pregnant her chances of surviving that or consequent pregnancies and childbirths are not very optimistic. She will not have transport to any medical facilities let alone access to running water or electricity. She will work hard until she delivers and if she gives birth to another girl, she will be seen as a failure and expected to produce sons. She will spend her life like her mother who now by the age of 30 has seen her best days, her body is starting to get weak under the constant working and childbearing.

Take a moment to watch this video of childbirth in Nepal:

Or this video about the rape horror women experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo where 13-14 yr old girls are abducted by army commanders and then given to soldiers as trophies. The girls live in sex slavery while their mothers back home are the breadwinners of the family and their husband's steal their money:

The treatment of women and girls in countries like Nepal, Congo and so many many others is sickening and deeply disturbing.
Instead of always concentrating on how awful the life of a Saudi woman is, lets think about the positive sides.
She has a loving, protecting (although sometimes over-protective) family and father who will love her unconditionally. Her birth is a special event and her mother is honored for it. She will be adored and pampered like a princess. After finishing school if she wishes she will not have to work a single day in her life. Her father, brothers and uncles will always support her financially. She might have a maid to help her with daily chores and a driver to take her places. When she marries her family will help her find the most suitable husband for her. And finally when she becomes a mother herself, she will have access to high quality health care and will likely be able to enjoy her motherhood to the fullest surrounded by her family.

As a western woman from a country that has given women equal rights for decades, I feel very lucky and blessed. I've seen so much unnecessary suffering of women in countries I worked in Africa and countless others I travelled to. Western women and Saudi women are lucky,so lets be grateful for all the things we have and often take as granted and remember those women who are not as lucky as we are!


Anonymous said...

Great Post. I think some legal issues should be reconsidered in my beloved Saudi. But As far As my community in Saudi goes, I would call for men rights LOL! I mean women in my family control basically everything from some business to marriage, at one time of my family and tribal history, a woman was the chief of the tribe or part of it at lest!!
We have an old tradition in my family, if a man puts his hand on a women, he will no longer recognized as part of the family. Nobody will accept anything from him or give him anything! This tradition makes me very proud of who I am and where I am from.
Also in personal levels, my father taught me to show the greatest respect to my sisters, let my mother alone!, and even if I'm angry with them, don't shout or threat! ( I shouted sometimes when I was a teenager lol ). Problems get solved my getting back to the head of the family ( father ) or to the other head of the family lol ( mother, big sister).
I think the image of women in Saudi is not well-represented abroad, all what people get is the negatives, nothing about the positives.

worm Regards,

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the link to the videos (although I have not worked up the courage to watch the second one).
It is too easy to take for granted our blessings, and focus only on what could be better. While this mentality is helpful at times, it is blinding if used all of the time.

Happy Women's Day to you and your baby! (still waiting to see that 9 month cover up!)

Anonymous said...

That'a a great post, thank you, to show us these women /girls that are suffering a lot in the world and that we tend to forget.

Unfortunately Women from Arabic/Middle Eastern Country are badly represented in the media, most of the time wrongly represented.
I am from Europe myself and I try to give thanks for everything I have and pray for less fortunate than me.
All the best

Layla said...

Anonymous- thank you for sharing your personal experience, it gives a good insight into how saudi womens lives really are!
I only wish more families around the world would have this no violence policy you have! That would be an extremely effective way to deal with domestic violence!

Layla said...

Thank you Stephi and Marie and welcome to my blog!
Arab women are usually portayed as oppressed and without any rights in the western media which is a shame because it overshadows all the positive thigs they have.

Lavender © said...

Loved this view of things! Sometimes it gives one a better perspective when they see how things are for those less fortunate.

Anonymous said...

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Layla said...

Salam Nazia-thanks soo much!!!I'm honored :)

Anonymous said...

It has been long overdue, the call for women equality in Saudi. It paints an ugly picture of my beloved people. I, for one, fully support a woman right to be equal with men and vice-versa here and everywhere. The first right I as a man want to be equal with women is the right to make a self-harming threat I know I’ll never follow through on, and expect/demand the women to change her position to prevent me from facing my own threat. If she ignores me, I’ll question their feelings doubt their care, and punish them dearly for it. It doesn't matter how many times I make these empty threats. My right as a man equal with women is to use these threats to win an argument and get what I want. or else…