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Saudi Arabia: 20 women elected in first women inclusive vote

source: nbcnews

Riyadh: Voters in Saudi Arabia elected 20 women for local government seats, according to election results after the momentous day when women were allowed to vote as well as contest in the polls for the first time in the history of the country.

Though the elected 20 form just one per cent of the estimated 2,100 contested seats in the municipal council, it is a huge step forward for a country where women still need permission from male guardians to work, travel, or enroll in school. Women are not even allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.

The only two former elections in 2005 and 2011 featured only male candidates campaigning for a mass of male voters. The municipal council, which is the only government body in Saudi where citizens elect the representatives, saw roughly 7000 prospective candidates for its positions, including 979 women.

There are no quotas in place for women candidates. However, 1,050 seats are appointed only on the king’s approval, which gives him the power to make sure that more women are represented.

The elected women come from various parts of the country, including the largest city, as well as a small village near Mecca.

Riyadh, Saudi’s conservative capital, saw four elected women – the highest from any region – while the Shiite concentrated Eastern Province had two elected women, said Hamad Al-Omar, who heads the media council of the General Election Commission.

Saudi Arabia’s second largest city, the most cosmopolitan Jeddah, along with the conservative city of Qassim, both saw two women elected.

Madrakah, a village situated about 150 kilometres north of Islam’s holiest site, also saw a woman elected, informed Mecca mayor Osama al-Bar to the AP.

Yet another woman won in Medina, where the Prophet Muhammad’s first mosque was built.

In the northernmost areas of the kingdom, two women were elected in Tabuk, and one each from Jawf and Hail. Jizan, on the southernmost border had one woman representative, neighbouring region Asir had another, and the eastern region of al-Ahsa had two.

Many of the women candidates ran on platforms promising overall greener cities with better garbage collection, improved roads, increased number of nurseries for working mothers which offer longer daycare hours, and the establishment community centers for the youth with sports and cultural activities.

Also read: Saudi Arabia cracks women political barrier, allows them to vote

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Major Plot Twist for Students at Saudi Arabia’s First Cinema School

"Everything is about to change,"

cinema school
A Saudi woman studies film making at a university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 7, 2018. VOA

Student Sama Kinsara adjusts her camera at Saudi Arabia’s only cinema school, her dream of seeing her work on the big screen coming into focus after the lifting of the country’s 35-year ban on cinema.

“Everything is about to change,” the first-year student of “visual and digital production” at Effat University in Jeddah told Reuters.

Her course is to be renamed “cinematic arts,” dropping the deceptive title employed originally to help stay under the radar of religious police and local communities opposed to the idea of men teaching women how to make movies.

ALSO READ: Economy, Culture and Human bonds most important Ties that bind Saudi Arabians and Indians together

cinema school
Saudi women study film making at a university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 7, 2018. VOA

Kinsara and her classmates on the four-year, women-only course have been able to film outside the university grounds for the first time.

“A girl carrying a camera and shooting in the streets is pushing boundaries,” said Mohamed Ghazala, head of Effat’s Visual and Digital Production Department, which began the course in 2013.

The changes follow the lifting of restrictions by reform-minded Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the last year.

Authorities hope that by opening 300 cinemas and building a film industry, more than $24 billion can be added to the economy and 30,000 jobs created.

ALSO READ: Six facts that question efficacy of Saudi Arabia led anti-terror alliance

cinema school
Saudi women study film making at a university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 7, 2018. VOA

Cinema is one of several new avenues for Saudi women, who can now attend soccer matches, take part in sport, and in a few months will be allowed to drive cars.

The deeply conservative kingdom is still one of most restrictive countries for women in the world, with a guardianship system requiring women to have a male relative’s approval for important decisions.

For film student Qurratulain Waheb, the chance to get off the university campus and film with her classmates is welcomed.

“Before there was a problem if we had a camera in the malls, we were not allowed to enter the malls but things are getting smoother now when we have access,” she said. “When we have permissions it gets easier, it gets better and people are more accepting. They want to see what we’re doing.” VOA

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