A Voice Unsilenced; Saudi Women Advocating Their Rights

March 13th, 2018 saw the launch of a first of its kind report where Saudi women speak for and about themselves to a global audience. As part of the Saudi Arabian Women’s Initiative, supported in part by Channel Foundation, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) published “A Voice Unsilenced: Saudi Women Advocating Their Rights, 1990-2017”, authored by Saudi independent researchers and women’s rights activists Monera Al Nahedh and Hessah Al Sheikh.

According to CWGL, the report “exposes the oppressive laws that position Saudi women as second-class citizens and assesses their advocacy initiatives toward gender equality”. CWGL chose to highlight the report during the 62nd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women to amplify Saudi women’s voices and provide an opportunity for engagement.

During the launch Al Nahedh emphasized that the report ties closely with the current realities in Saudi Arabia, indicating “that it is a period of change and with change brings opportunities”. She shared that Saudi women have the ability to push their agenda during this time, but changes must go beyond the surface: shifts such as the end of the driving ban won’t make a difference in regards to patriarchy or realizing true gender equality. Saudi women must continue to advocate for their full rights for true and substantial change. In doing so, Al Nahedh concludes that “their outreach must be inclusive, representative, and be conducted with a united vision and agenda”.

With recent policy shifts, the report states that “it is time for the voices of Saudi women, who have been the driving force for substantive change, to be heard.”  Krishanti Dharmaraj, Executive Director of CWGL said that “we are confident that this report is the beginning of a reflection of Saudi women’s voices in what promises to be a long, powerful, and courageous journey.”

The Guardian featured the report and its authors in a March 28, 2018 article, particularly noting how women are using Twitter to fight back against the legal guardianship system with the hope that it will be abolished.