Saudi Arabia’s conservative society may not be ready to accept the ‘Powerful Businesswoman’ into the circles of mainstream commerce just yet. Female entrepreneurs paid the price for emerging unveiled and self-assured at the recently concluded Jeddah Economic Forum (JEF).
The Kingdom’s highest religious authority slammed female businesswomen Tuesday for addressing men at the conference in a manor that causes “the doors of evil to open.” This year’s keynote speech was delivered by female Chief Executive Officer of Olayan Financing Company, Lubna Olayan. Without the conventional head scarf, she spoke of a new "Saudi Vision for Growth” in front of over 1,000 official delegates.
“This is prohibited,” said Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh to SPA. “What is even more painful is that such outrageous behavior should have happened in Saudi Arabia…whose rulers consistently abided by Shariah without fear of criticism,” he said.
Female speakers at the conference called for unlocking the potential of women in the work force. Saudi women were backed at the forum by various personalities including US President Bill Clinton, Sweden’s future monarch Crown Princess Victoria and Queen Rania of Jordan.
Currently, Saudi women cannot leave their homes unless entirely covered and are banned from driving. They are not permitted to travel without consent from a male relative or husband.
According to the World Bank, giving women in the Middle East equal opportunities to contribute to economic life would significantly enhance the growth prospects and economic productivity of countries in the region. Analysis reveals that if the female labor force participation rate increased, household earnings could rise by as much as twenty-five percent. — (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )