15 Confounding Facts About Growing Up A Saudi Arabian Girl

The girls of Saudi Arabia have very strict social rules to follow - they are raised under their fathers' roof and are allowed to leave once they marry. There are revolutions taking place right now where girls are hoping to one day acquire the right to drive, go to school, and maybe even one day marry for love.

It's not a secret that under Saudi law, women must obey men, and the notorious guardian’s permission is required for simple things, such as opening a bank account or watching a soccer game. Sadly, women have a male guardian who controls their right to study, work, travel and even access medical care. Often women must beg their own sons – the sons they gave birth to and raise to be men – for vital things, such as going to the gynecologist.

Although the West promotes gender equality and has labeled the Kingdom as the "world’s leading oppressor of women," many countries, including the US, are good allies with Saudi Arabia. In the end, one of the most conservative and gender-segregated countries in the world is the largest oil exporter. Oil can even erase the fact that Saudi Arabia is often a sponsor of extremist organizations. Perhaps is not Sunni Islam but world’s interest in oil that keeps Saudi Arabian women oppressed.

Can the young Prince of Saudi Arabia liberate women? Let’s reveal some of the secrets of growing up a Saudi Arabian girl.

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15 Silence Is Key

Saudi Arabian girls must be obedient and quiet: good stay-at-home moms and silent wives. Women there are considered socially lower than men in terms of status: they need a male sponsor to get an ID card, open a bank account, and get the medical treatment they need. Therefore, it may come as a surprise to North Americans, that many women there have stood against the ultra-conservative regime and guardianship system in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabian girls have kept some secrets that awed the rest of the world. Some attend secret driving lessons, other play in secret soccer teams, and some manage to escape to the West to marry the love of their life.

Most of all, women have become socially active; many protests were organized by Saudi Arabian women.

Sadly, such events often face severe consequences. For instance, blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes only for calling for free speech. Corporal punishment is a well-known fact... And soon after the scandal with Raif Badawi, a woman was executed. Public executions are an alarming fact of life in Saudi Arabia.

14 Living Unseen

Your home is your castle, right? Having a home gives people financial security and emotional stability. Home-ownership is important for families; for example, many expectant women experience the nesting syndrome, the sweet desire to get ready for the baby. Also, renting gives young people independence and teaches them responsibilities.

On the other hand, home-ownership is a step towards women’s progress. However, in Saudi Arabia, women obey men and can’t have a house without permission… Which forces Saudi Arabian girls to rent secret apartments.

According to the Times, Maha Almutairi was still living with her father at the age of 35. She couldn’t study or even have cats without her father’s permission. So Maha Almutairi rented a secret apartment where she could stay part-time after work. There are many women who rent an apartment through companies that do not require a guardian’s approval. However, these Saudi Arabian women can face jail.

13 Driving Lessons Will Be Legal

While in the West many teens can drive, for Saudi Arabian women, driving is still a dream. Women there are not allowed to drive yet.

The good news is that Saudi Arabia is undergoing a cultural shakeup and the official ban on women driving will be lifted soon. As of June 2018, Saudi Arabian girls will be allowed to drive. In addition, the director general of Traffic Department said that "Those who wish to obtain a new driving license and are not good at driving should attend a 90-hour training course, while those who are good at driving should attend a 30-hour training course."

Thus, many women have started secret driving lessons.

From young students to mothers, women can’t wait for this change. Nevertheless, laws are not enough, and people’s mentality must change. Sadly, some men have begun to threaten women who want to drive.

12 Natural Beauty Secrets

While people can’t see their faces, it’s a known fact that Arab women are beautiful. Saudi Arabian girls have secret tricks to keep their hair shiny and their skin soft.

Avocado oil, lemons, and rose water are some of the secret ingredients Saudi Arabian girls use.

In fact, natural products prove to be more effective than expensive creams and soaps. For pregnant women, healthy ingredients are even more significant.

Another exotic secret is that, in the end, Saudi Arabian girls are just girls. That’s why it’s not surprising that they can be provocative. In 2017, Victoria’s Secret opened its first store in iconic Jeddah, one of the biggest resorts by the Red Sea. So, one of the biggest lingerie brands can help women reveal their true sexuality and real beauty.

Also, Saudi Arabia had its first fashion week this month.

11 Traveling With Supervision

While driving will make Saudi Arabian girls more independent, many charities, such as Amnesty International, worry that this is only a small step towards women’s liberation. Saudi Arabian girls still need a male guardian to travel. If women in the West overuse terms, such as a digital nomad or a travelholic, Saudi Arabian girls are treated like children. In some cases, women need permission from their own sons.

Travel permissions are a must. Fortunately, the conservative Kingdom has accepted electronic permissions, so women do not have to be accompanied by a male representative at all times – just like prisoners with their guards.

Saudi Arabian girls crave for freedom. In fact, according to The Economist, some Saudi Arabian girls manage to escape during their family travels and never return to their prison.

10 Fighting For Opportunities

Education opens many doors. On top of that, people often keep fond memories of their sweet student years. Although formal education requires a lot of persistence (and money), free access to education is a gift. However, the unfair Saudi Arabian’s male guardianship system oppresses women. Girls need to obey their guardians and follow their desires. If a Saudi Arabian girl wants to study medicine abroad but doesn’t have permission, she has to give up on her dreams to become a doctor.

That’s why some lucky girls that are sent abroad at the government’s expense, have some secret plans.

According to The Economist, some postpone their return... and some never return to Saudi Arabia.

That’s not surprising, though: it undoubtedly difficult, to say the least, if, for example, a girl is on an ambitious career path, but still has an illiterate male relative dictating her life.

9 Childbirth Is A One Woman Show

Pregnancy and birth are unique but still, shaped by cultures and beliefs. Not surprisingly, Saudi Arabia is a country that’s ruled by traditions and rituals. Nevertheless, like in many parts of the world, birth has been medicalized. Note that men are not allowed into the childbirth area. Hospitals in Saudi Arabia have sections for women where men cannot enter, and fathers cannot support women during childbirth.

In fact, that's a well-known fact. According to CNN, people in Saudi Arabia can’t mix freely with members of the opposite gender. In 2013 shops who employed men and women had to build separation walls to divide their employees. Even in restaurants, women must enter separately, which is through a side entrance - not the main one, of course. And something even more surprising: women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to enter cemeteries.

8 Dalliances Are Not Allowed

Saudi Arabian girls can’t mix with boys and often their love life is arranged by their fathers. Male guardians can force women to marry. Unfortunately, under Sharia inheritance laws, women receive less than men, and many women must obey and marry an older man to avoid poverty and death. Note that a man can divorce his wife without her knowledge. On top of that, in Saudi Arabia, women caught committing adultery face loss of life by stoning. Premarital intercourse can lead to prison and lashings.

The story of Al Fayez, one of the wives of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, is a sad example. She was 15 when she married the King who was 48 at the time. After her escape to the UK, she revealed her story: "After I was forced to marry him, Abdullah would come to my room as a visitor for a few hours every now and then. And then he’d go to his other wives, so you don’t even fight, you don’t even matter." To punish Al Fayez for not giving him a son and for escaping to the West, the King imprisoned their four daughters for over a decade.

7 Soccer Teams And Extracurriculars

People all over the world love sports. However, in Saudi Arabia, only men can enjoy sports. Gender segregation in Saudi Arabia is a huge problem and women are not allowed simple things… such as going to a sports stadium. This year, for the first time, Saudi Arabian women could watch a soccer match. However, their seats were segregated in the so-called family section. This is one of the many reforms the young Prince of Saudi Arabia has initiated to integrate women.

Talking about soccer, it was back in 2012 when all social changes started. A report by journalist Ann Lopez from 2012 revealed that there were many secret soccer teams, which helped girls play sports and stay fit. This is a serious medical issue because according to data, the obesity rate in Saudi Arabia is 25%.

6 Men Are The Bread-Winners

Saudi Arabia is a conservative Kingdom dominated by men. Women are often hidden behind their black scarves or locked at home. Since women live under the supervision of a male guardian, many women are oppressed by their relatives. Many girls are not allowed to travel and study, and many more cannot get a job to become independent. In fact, female job-seekers share the sad truth that many jobs are only for males. Surprisingly, some men send their own pictures when they apply for jobs for their wives, and even attend the interview with them.

Saudi Arabia has been accused by many other nations for financially oppressing women, so the Kingdom is planning to increase women’s participation in the workforce from 22% to 30% in the next 12 years. Till then, Saudi Arabia can lose lots of talented people: some women manage to escape to more liberal places like Dubai.

5 The Rules For Voting

epaselect epa05066147 Saudi women leave a polling station after casting their votes in the Kigdom's municipal elections, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 12 December 2015. For the first time Saudi women have been allowed to run and vote in the the country's municipal elections, regarded as a small but significant opening of the ultra conservative society to women. Though female candidates were not allowed to campaign and had to be accomapanied by a male guardian in order to be able to vote in the country where they are still not allowed by law to drive. The voting age was also lowered prior to the election from 21 to 18. EPA/AHMED YOSRI

Voting rights are basic human rights and that’s why women’s suffrage is an important event in history. Sadly enough, Saudi Arabian women are often left behind.

Women there were not allowed to vote, and it was in 2011 when King Abdullah finally let women vote.

Still, Saudi Arabian girls need a male sponsor in order to do simple things, such as getting a loan or a passport. The legal position of women is low and they can’t even fight for their own kids. According to CBS News, "A woman's testimony does not carry the same weight as that of a man. In a Sharia court, the testimony of one man equals that of two women." As religion is a major factor in Saudi Arabia, those who are not Muslim do not count at all.

4 Trying On Clothes In Stores

Saudi Arabia is known for its women in long black robes, which are known as abayas. Women need to cover themselves and everything except the eyes and the hands need to be covered. In some rural areas, even the eyes are covered behind a black veil. Otherwise, women may face a death sentence. There are cases of men beating up women without abayas. In fact, women cannot try on clothes while shopping because this is considered sinful – even in a fitting room.

In 2016, young Malak al-Shehri tweeted a picture without a headscarf, and a result she was arrested, with many people calling for her to be executed.

This act shows that women there have started a revolution to show that they are living creatures - not black abayas walking quietly behind their male sponsors.

3 Finally Making Some Progress

Saudi Arabian girls are treated like children; sadly, they are not allowed lots of things. Many Saudi Arabian girls cannot watch or play sports. Fortunately, things are slowly getting better.

In 2012, female athletes were allowed to compete in the Olympics, which however was a huge challenge simply because female athletes couldn’t train and prepare back home.

In 2017, Princess Reema bint Bandar headed the Saudi Federation for Community Sports and started supporting female athletes and women in general. As she said once, "I’ve encouraged women to go out on the streets and into the public parks to exercise. I’ve been telling women they don’t need permission to exercise in public, they don’t need permission to activate their own sports programs. And more and more they are doing it." Women should not ask for permission to stay fit!

2 When It Comes To Elective Surgeries

When it comes to beauty, health has always been the main ingredient. In today’s tech-based society, advanced medicine can help many people lead a healthier lifestyle. As a result, one’s emotional well-being can increase significantly.

However, for many Saudi Arabian girls, medical interventions and elective surgeries are just a dream. Women can’t access basic stuff, such as medical treatment. In fact, women need male permission for vital things like gynecological surgeries. Imagine, in North America, asking your brother or son for permission to go and get yourself checked?

On the other hand, cosmetic surgery is becoming more and more popular among Saudi Arabian girls. Sadly enough, women all over the world are being bombarded with false images and fake beauty standards. Nevertheless, from surgery to makeup, women should be able to decide for themselves.

1 A Revolution

The world looks at Saudi Arabian girls as oppressed creatures that have no rights or goals. However, the revolution that’s happening across Saudi Arabia is not a secret. From attending soccer games to driving, women in Saudi Arabia have started to stand for themselves.

Although the conservative guardianship system does not treat women as full citizens of Saudi Arabia - and women face punishments for not wearing headscarves - the revolution there has started.

And in fact, one of the main social transformations takes place behind closed doors: in schools and universities. In the end, education is the first step towards any social change.

The situation in Saudi Arabia, marked by gender segregation and unfair policies, proves that gender equality is still a global problem. It’s time for women all over the world to get what they deserve.

References: abouther.com, apnews.com, arabnews.com, cbsnews.com, edition.cnn.com, huffingtonpost.com, independent.co.uk, nypost.com, pri.org, theguardian.com

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