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!