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Women's Rights In Saudi Arabia: A Timeline

Saudi Arabia’s plans to strengthen its economy have women at the forefront of change. Recent reforms have encouraged women to take on high ranking positions in major companies, attend and partake in sporting events, learn to drive and much more.

AboutHer.com takes you back in time and to present day with just some of the major milestones women in Saudi Arabia have reached through the years:

1955: Saudi’s Opens Its First School for Girls

Girls in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia were not permitted to go to school before 1955. That year, 30 girls were enrolled at Dar Al Hanan School in Jeddah, which was established by Queen Faisal's wife, Queen Effat Al-Thunayan Al-Saud.
 

1970: Higher Education for Women

The Riyadh College of Education was the first higher education institution for women and founded in 1970. It was later renamed, Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University.
 

2001: Women Get Personal ID Cards

2001 marked the year that women could attain personal ID cards for the first time. The cards are the only way to prove their identity, especially when it comes to legal disputes regarding property issues or inheritance. Before 2006, women’s ID cards were only issued with the permission of a male guardian and only issued to that guardian.
 

2005: Forced Marriages Become Illegal

Saudi Arabia banned forced marriages in 2005, however, traditionally, marriage contracts continue to remain only between the father of the bride and prospective groom.
 

2009: Saudi Appoints Its First Female Government Minister


Norah Al Faiz

King Abdullah appointed Saudi Arabia’s first female minister into the kingdom’s government in 2009. Noura Al Fayez became the Deputy Education Minister for Women’s Affairs.
 

2012: First Saudi Women To Compete in the Olympic Games


Sarah Attar

In 2012 Saudi Arabia agreed for female athletes to participate on it’s national team for the Olympics for the first time. One of those athletes was Sarah Attar who competed in the women’s 800 meter race in London and made history by running in her headscarf. Since then, many more Saudi women have been partaking in sporting events and striving to make the cut for the Olympics.
 

2013: Women Permitted to Ride Pedal Bikes and Motorcycles

Women were first granted the permission to ride bikes and motorcycles in 2013 but not publicly. They were permitted to ride only in recreational areas, in a full abaya and veil and had to be escorted by their male guardian.
 

2013: The First Women in the Shura

King Abdullah swore in the first 30 women to Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council in February 2013. This allowed women to be appointed to government positions giving them the opportunity to run for office.

2015: Women Can Vote and Run for Office

Saudi Arabia’s municipal elections in 2015 allowed women to vote and run for office for the first time. In the kingdom’s 2015 polls, 20 Saudi women were elected to municipal positions in the absolute monarchy.
 

2017: Saudi Appoints a Woman To Head Its Stock Exchange


Sarah Al Suhaimi

Sarah Al Suhaimi is the first woman to head Saudi’s stock exchange as the chairwoman. She made history in February 2017.
 

2018: Sports Stadiums Open Their Gates to Women

Saudi’s General Sports Authority made the announcement in October 2017 that women would be allowed to be spectators at sports events at public stadiums for the first time. In early 2018, three, previous male-only arenas, welcomed women.
 

2018: Women Can Drive

It was announced in September 2017 that women would be granted the permission to drive and in June 2018, the women of the kingdom celebrated their new driver’s licenses and freedom. They can now drive without the permission or presence of a male guardian.

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