By Cake Staff:
When Saudi women were given the right to vote for the first time on December 12, 2015, they were also finally allowed to stand for elections to city councils. Needless to say, it was a historic moment, but at the same time many within and outside the kingdom of Saudi Arabia had several reservations about how impactful this would be. For one thing, women are still not allowed to drive, and continue to live under an oppressive and rather ridiculous system of male guardianship. In recent times, activists have been fighting these and more aspects of Saudi society, and attitudes about the elections’ potential to bring change were, at best, ambivalent.
But what does all of this means for Saudi women themselves? A new documentary film by Mona El-Naggar and Adam Bolt delves into exactly that. The film follows three of the women running for city council positions in Riyadh. There’s Dr. Fadia Al-Khadrah, who is described as “a divorced career woman,” who documents her campaign via her Snapchat account, and holds webinars to interact with voters. Then there’s Reem Al-Suwaih, a housewife whose husband still has the final word on what she does with her life. And finally, there’s Loujain Al-Hathloul, a fiery activist who dared to defy the rule against women driving and was even jailed for two months.
Through all three candidates, the film explores the role that social media plays in women’s lives. It also offers a relatively rare glimpse into the everyday lives of Saudi women – and politically active Saudi women, at that. While it is heartening to see Al-Khadrah, Al-Suwaih, and Al-Hathloul foraying into politics in a world that is almost obscenely dominated by men, the film also does highlight several challenges that they face. But perhaps a deeper understanding of the obstacles that still line the path for women in Saudi Arabia is exactly what is needed, if they must be overcome.
Featured image source: The New York Times.