No Men Allowed: New City Built for Saudi Businesswomen
The strict cultural and religious customs of Saudi Arabia have long impaired the ability of Saudi women to pursue a work life and professional development… until now.
The issue of gender segregation in Saudi Arabia and its impact on workplace equality has found a loophole, with a women-only city of business to be built in the Eastern Province.
If permitted to work by their guardians, women will be free to achieve professional success in this city without breaking sharia law.
ΓÇ£The new industrial city should have a specialised training centre to help women develop their talents and train them to work at factories,ΓÇ¥ says Hussa al-Aun, a businesswoman behind the venture. ΓÇ£This is essential to cut unemployment among our female graduates.ΓÇ¥
Women currently make up approximately 15% of the workforce in Saudi Arabia, according to studies.
While this is far below the international average, it has risen exponentially in recent years and represents real success for women who have been able to work in spite of not being allowed to drive or encounter men in public, private, academic, commercial or social situations.
The women-only city located in Hofuf is to be the first of five planned for the country, with the potential for more in the future. This latest move to make an impact on womenΓÇÖs business prospects comes as part of a slow but steady development in womenΓÇÖs rights for the region.
In 2008, Saudi women were legally permitted to enter buildings unaccompanied by men if they can produce ID; in 2009, the first female cabinet member was appointed to represent WomenΓÇÖs Education; in 2012, Saudi women were permitted to compete in the Olympic Games.
As women become better able to pursue professional development, King Abdullah has announced that they will also be able to both vote and run for office in local elections from 2015.
The developers of the new city, the Saudi Industrial Property Authority, have declared that it should be up and running in 2013 and will allow women to pursue those professions that ΓÇ£best suit their interests, nature and ability.ΓÇ¥
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