Ten positions of leadership in Saudi Arabia’s mosques have been appointed to women. It’s a decision that follows recent attempts by the conservative Kingdom of more than 34 million to better support the advancement of women and girls.
In an official statement released by the The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, the appointments are said to ‘”empower Saudi women with high qualifications and capabilities” and “empower women to assume leadership positions,”. Something that “will reflect on development and the economy.”
The senior roles appointed to women at Islam’s two holiest sites in Mecca and Medina include positions across various departments at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa, the Two Holy Mosques Building Gallery and the Holy Mosque Library.
The female appointees “will support the process of creativity and achieving the principles of quality and the highest standards of excellence in order to achieve the generous aspirations of the wise leadership,” the statement added.
On the same day, almost 500 young men were also appointed to positions in the Two Holy Mosques as guides, directors, engineers and administrators.
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The assistant undersecretary for service and administrative affairs at the General Presidency for Affairs, Kamelia Al-Daadi, told Arab News the positions will cover “specialisations and services provided in the Two Holy Mosques, such as guidance, directive, engineering, administrative and supervisory services,” as well as invest in the women’s capabilities in helping pilgrims, who come by the millions each year.
Almost half of visitors to the the Grand Mosque are women, according to Abdul Hamid Al-Maliki, deputy president of the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa.
“The General Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques accords great attention to young people of both sexes by empowering them to be leaders at young ages,” he said. Al-Maliki believes that having Saudi women leaders will ensure high-quality services.
Officials in Saudi believe the increasing liberalisation of women’s rights and participation has largely been the work of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and that supporting them has been part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform program.
Dr Al Anoud Khaled Al Aboud, Deputy President for Women’s Development Affairs at the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah, also believes that the wide-ranging reforms across the Kingdom’s education, health and economy sectors are part of government’s vision 2030.
“Over the last two years, women have been gaining access to jobs in courts, regional municipalities, government ministries, and more,” she said.
Dr Al Aboud believes the new appointments will make sure women “gain further access to educational and professional opportunities that empowered them to participate in decision-making processes and take on senior leadership positions.”
“The decision to appoint 10 more women to the council’s board, in addition to the previous numbers making up half of the board members, is a continuation of the leadership’s efforts to empower women to occupy leadership positions in various fields,” she said.
“We are thankful to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and his government for showing his trust in Saudi women and giving them a chance to be part of his vision.”
In 2017, Mohammed bin Salman was appointed Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and since then, the number of working women in the kingdom has reached 1.03 million in 2019, (35 percent of the total workforce) compared to 816,000 in 2015.
Today, women can drive cars, are no longer required to segregate themselves from unrelated men in restaurants, and are allowed to leave the country without the consent of a designated male family member.
In 2014, Fatimah Al Rashoud become the first woman to occupy a leadership position at the General Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques when she was appointed as vice president of the Women’s Guidance Committee.
Last week, Dr. Khulood Mohammed al-Khamis became the first woman to hold the role of Secretary-General of Tabuk’s regional council. Dr. al-Khamis is an associate professor in the science department at the University of Tabuk, and completed her Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry at Howard University.
The Governor of Tabuk Region, Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, met with Dr al-Khamis and expressed his confidence s in Dr. al-Khamis’s new role.
The Saudi Press Agency obtained a statement said about the pair’s meeting which said that “His Highness congratulated Dr. Khulood al-Khamis on this confidence as the first woman to hold the position of Secretary-General of the regional council at the level of the Kingdom, wishing her continued success in her new work,”
In a statement to Al Arabiya, a Saudi owned free-to-air television news channel based in Dubai, Dr. al-Khamis said she was grateful for being the first woman in Saudi Arabia to hold such a position.
“I’m happy to be the first Saudi woman to hold this position and to be a daughter of Tabuk, and this is not surprising from the leader on the matter, and from [His Highness] Prince Fahd bin Sultan, Governor of Tabuk region, and the keenness to empower Saudi women to assume leadership positions in the Kingdom,” she said.