Yesterday I overheard the news that Saudi Arabia was making some radical steps toward women's empowerment and thought I was half awake!..
On Sunday, King Abdullah announced that women would be allowed to serve on the Consultative Council that advises the king - and it’s worth remembering that he appoints them. But he also promised that they would be able to stand as candidates in the next municipal elections. The problem is that no one is quite sure when they might take place.
In the meantime, women in Saudi have to settle for the fact that they are still not allowed to drive a car. Indeed, a Saudi Arabian court has just sentenced a woman to 10 lashes for breaking the country's ban.
So who said money doesn't talk? The vast wealth and power of Saudi provides an amazing veneer for its poor human rights record. In very poor nations it’s common knowledge that women provide a higher ratio of productivity than men. In places like Sub-Saharan Africa, when women and girls earn money, they reinvest 90% back into the family compared with only 30% - 40% from men. It’s just not worth thinking what would happen to poor nations if women experienced the same level of inequality as they do in Saudi.
Gender imbalance is still a long way off course across the world - not just in Saudi. And that includes the low level of women around executive boards in the USA and UK. All of our societies regardless of creed or political colours have a long way to go, and our societies would be better for it if we considered the moral and economic benefits of gender equality.
And it doesn't have to create any kind of imbalances in our homes either - which reminds me of what the wife of a senior Christian leader once said when asked about her place in the home. "My husband is the head of the home," she said proudly, "But I'm the neck which turns the head!"
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- 10/10/2011 10:44 - Looking back, looking forwards
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