A first: women voting and running in local Saudi elections

Is it real or cosmetic change?

Saudi activist and women’s health researcher Hala Aldosari is excited about next weekend’s elections in Saudi Arabia. It will be the first time women will be able to stand side-by-side with men as candidates. Women will also be able to vote for the first time.

Although these reform seem long overdue, these are major victories for women and women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia who have pushed for such changes for years. There are 900 women running for the local elections, which will be the third in the nation’s modern history. All together, 7,000 candidates will compete for seats on 284 councils.

It is significant that the Saudi government is using the local government level as a platform for social change.

Aldosari says that given all the restrictions that remain, women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia are divided on what this elections represents. “Some of the activists believe that the whole thing is just a cosmetic thing … so they are in favor of boycotting” the election, she says. “Others believe that this is an important step to have more and more people as part of the political process.”

Read (or listen to) the full story on Public Radio International (PRI):