First Women Elected to Public Office in Saudi Arabia
In what’s an absolutely amazing turnout and response to elections, Saudi Arabians voted 17 women into public office in municipal elections. Saturday’s historic elections for municipal councils marked the first time women in the country were allowed to vote and to run for office. [Feature Image: Newsweek]
The female winners include Salma al-Oteibi in the Mecca region, Lama al-Suleiman and Rasha Hufaithi in Jeddah, Hanouf al-Hazimi in Al Jouf province, and Sanaa al-Hammam and Masoumah Abdelreda in the Ahsa region.
979 women candidates and 130,637 women voters registered to participate in the election, according to a CNN report citing Saudi election officials. A total of 5,938 men ran for the local offices, which mostly oversee planning and development issues.
Under King Abdullah, who died in January and who announced in 2011 that women would be able to vote in this election, steps were taken for women to have a bigger public role, sending more of them to university and encouraging female employment.
WSJ in its report shared the voice of one of the female winners.
Rasha Hefzi, a social worker who secured a seat in the coastal city of Jeddah told the Journal
“It’s very difficult because it’s the first time—and we are competing against men,” she said before the results were announced. “But people are thirsty for change.”
The reaction has been palpable with celebrations across women given this effort to bring women into power has paid off. “I have goosebumps,” said Ghada Ghazzawi, a businesswoman to WSJ as she entered a polling station in an upscale Jeddah neighborhood on Saturday. “We have been waiting for this day for a long time.”