Tuesday, November 29, 2011

“We reject marginalization” campaign led by Saudi men to support women in the election

Alarabiya.net English

Saudi men are taking the lead in raising women’s awareness on the electoral process.(File photo)
Saudi men are taking the lead in raising women’s awareness on the electoral process.(File photo)
Saudi men are taking the lead in raising women’s awareness on the electoral process by launching the first online campaign site “We reject marginalization” with an aim to supervise and monitor women’s participation in the upcoming municipal elections.

In a bid to create awareness on the voting procedure for women, the site features information on the electoral process and offers advice on matters related to voting and alerts readers of candidates’ campaigns.

The initiative is the brainchild of media graduate students at King Saud University who wanted to dispel the notion that Saudi men were opposed to women’s right to vote and was instead offering support on the electoral process.

They conduct free online seminars on the registration process and how to have effective campaigns. They also plan to launch a video service on their YouTube channel to make it broadly accessible to their targeted audience.
This initiative was created after King Abdulah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud issued directives in September giving women the right to vote and urging that they not be marginalized from society.

The project has been supervised by Dr. Abdullatif al-Awfi, media and international relations professor at King Saud University. The organizing team consists of qualified personnel of municipal election domain which assisted the students in converting their school project into a major media assistance tool.

Saudi women, who are required to be in the presence of a male guardian when participating in any form of public activity, welcomed the royal verdict as a valuable one, and are optimistic about more decisions that will empower them.

About 762 views were collected in a study survey conducted in Saudi Arabia for Nabd Al Arab program of Al Aan TV's by YouGov Siraj on October 22, to voice national views on reforms in the kingdom and on women’s rights.

The study shows that Saudi men, of 23 per cent anticipate women to take a “minor role” in the governmental election of 2015, while women thrive for a higher role. Still, both genders were in favor of women voting, at 73 and 71 per cent respectively.

However, Saudi women predict 27 women to be given seats on the Shoura Council, while men expected less than 15 seats, according to The National newspaper.

The presence of women in the Shoura Council will bring in vital changes to both the economy and the social fabric of society by including their input and opinion in the discourse on national development. Their participation will allow them to call for new policies and implement new strategies of their interests.

“Because we refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with sharia, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior ulama (clerics) and others, to involve women in the shoura council as members, starting from the next term at the consultative council which advises the monarchy on matters of public policy. Women will also be able to run as candidates in the municipal election and will even have a right to vote.” King Abdullah said in a speech at the Shoura Council in September.

A spokesman for “we reject marginalization” campaign, Yahya Al Zahrani told Al Hayat newspaper that “we have witnessed throughout our field experience on municipal elections that most participants lack essential methods that helps them increase their turnout voting. For this purpose, we adapted an orientation approach to facilitate easy and efficient methods for women to make their participation a successful one.”

“Our initial objective to the campaign is to make it widely recognized and acceptable by the general public so it can be integrated into the prevailing wisdom of the society. Throughout this approach we aim to change cultural behaviors and raise their awareness on the importance of both men and women taking part in the decision making process, he added.”

Women of different educational background have responded positively to the online initiative. Asma Abodi, who joined the group recently, wrote in her Facebook post that “this is the kind of partnership women needs.”

Another participant, Munerah al-Subaie said that sharing information is essential to the overall production and success of any project. She added that working women nationwide want to feel that men trust their capabilities and good attributes.

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