Saudi women use twitter for activism

Published August 19th, 2013 - 07:54 GMT
(AFP file photo)
(AFP file photo)

Thousands of Saudi women have been using social media, especially Twitter, to air their views and campaign for their rights, a senior Saudi journalist said, adding that their tweets were instrumental in mobilizing public and official support for their causes.

“Saudi women, especially university graduates, are using Twitter and other social media outlets to mobilize support for their rights. Many of them have been waiting for years to get employed. They have formed a group now on Twitter to make their voice heard by officials,” Khaled Aburas told Arab News.

He said that for Saudi women social media is an ideal platform to join forces and take up their issues. “They face the problem of immobility. It is not possible for women in different regions in a vast country like Saudi Arabia to come together in one place to raise their voices for their rights.”

The case of part-time teachers was a big issue as many of them were campaigning to get full-time jobs. The government recently issued an order instructing authorities to give permanent jobs to nearly 10,000 teachers across the country.

“Saudis have been using social media to communicate with ministers and government departments,” Aburas said. “Social media has brought thousands of women together and helped them to get the support of mainstream media people.”

They also received the support of Islamic scholars, Shoura members and other influential people including columnists who wrote about women's issues. Part-time teachers are now asking authorities to remove the difficult conditions that stand in the way of their employment.

Aburas said members in the Shoura Council have agreed to raise the issue of unemployed Saudi women graduates and are keen on taking up the matter with the Court of Grievances. According to one report, university graduates account for about 78 percent of unemployed Saudi women. There are more than 500,000 jobless young Saudi men and women.

“Among the graduates tweeting for their rights, there are widows, divorcees and women facing financial difficulties. Some of them majored in subjects such as mathematics,” Aburas said, adding that some officials were blocking their employment and placing difficult conditions.

“We have lost our youth and age searching for jobs,” said one Saudi woman graduate in her Twitter message. Many of these jobless graduates complain that they were sidelined because they did not have a “wasta,” or know someone who can take up their case with the powers that be.

Another woman, specialized in Shariah education, lamented that she has been seeking a job for 23 years. “We are disappointed with the failed system,” said another woman, urging authorities to find jobs for all women who graduated several years ago and have solid educational backgrounds.

She also called for compensations for the years they had to sit at home unemployed for reasons they were not responsible for. “Some of us graduated during the era of King Fahd and are still seeking jobs,” she added.
Another woman expressed her hope that the Saudi leadership would look into this matter seriously and resolve the issue quickly.

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