By Samar Fatany
01 August 2015
THE participation of women in the forthcoming Municipal elections is creating a local and international buzz. It is still very unclear whether the women running for elections will succeed or not.
Unfortunately there are still many social barriers that are challenging. There are also many who still oppose the participation of women in decision-making positions.
This rigid attitude has kept our country behind and continues to block our way to progress. We need to work harder to create a consensus to support women in leadership positions.
The more we see women in power the more people will get used to the fact that women are capable leaders. However, recruiting women to run for a local office is still a real challenge for our region.
Saudi women could play a pivotal role in building their community. Studies have shown that women tend to identify more with the social needs of the community and they bond together for the common good.
The concerns of healthcare, education, and the economy are some of the modern day issues that affect all women and they should have a say on the way government addresses these concerns.
To do so we need to eliminate the barriers that have marginalized women for a very long time. The distorted Islamic interpretations that depicted women as less intelligent and questioned their morality should be buried and eliminated once and for all.
Today Saudi women have joined the ranks of other Muslim women who are highly intelligent and qualified as scientists, doctors, bankers, economists, architects, academics and researchers.
They do not lack the intelligence or the moral attitude to command respect and recognition. There are many professional and capable women, who if given the chance, can become successful candidates for political office.
In fact, there are many who are more eligible and better qualified than men who occupy positions but lack professionalism and are less qualified.
It is time we look into the experience of others and learn some of the strategies that have supported women to reach leadership positions and provided them the opportunity to play a bigger role in public office.
In more advanced societies there is a long history of many organizations that worked towards supporting women to reach decision-making positions.
Establishing a formal professional political action committee could be one way of recognizing potential women leaders.
Its role would be to identify a diverse group of women who are not well represented in the country. It would study the demographic and geographic situation of citizens and accordingly provide the necessary training and support for potential women leaders to qualify for government positions.
Instituting professional networks with campaign managers and media training services to enhance the political qualifications of potential women leaders could be another way of boosting their prospects to be nominated for public office.
They would be trained to develop a campaign on how to deal with the media and how to shape a message. They would be educated on issues that are of great concern to the society.
They would learn the art of how to deal with the difficulties of addressing public needs and increasing their understanding of Shariah laws and policy issues.
Their goal would be to create informed and active women leaders, who could serve the nation politically, socially and shaping its economy.
The country is in dire need of all its qualified citizens, men and women. Women who are 50 percent of the population and are 57 percent of the university graduates could include potential politicians who could be brilliant negotiators and serve the nation in the international arena, negotiating policies on arms control and military advocacy.
Or legislators who could introduce a new perspective on social policy issues like healthcare education, family, the environment and fiscal issues, which could create a great difference on the domestic front.
Indeed qualified Saudi women if given the opportunity and the proper training could play an important role in shaping public policy and in providing a more moderate environment to fight extremism and sectarianism that continue to threaten the surety and stability of this country.
Policymakers are called upon to focus on researching and identifying women with potential. A network of support to allow women reach decision-making positions is the need of the hour.
There should be concerted efforts to bring women into full participation in policymaking; they should not be denied the opportunity to serve as chief executives, legislators, ministers and ambassadors.
For how long will Saudi women continue to remain bystanders in the progress of their region? It is time they are recognized as equal members of the international community who are eager to serve humanity and build a better future for their children.
The future of our nation depends on the way we conduct our lives and embrace modernity.
Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer.