Women opening up their own businesses without the permission of a male guardian may not be big news in the Western part of the world — but when it comes to ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, the move is indeed groundbreaking.
“Women can now launch their own businesses and benefit from (governmental) e-services without having to prove consent from a guardian,” the ministry of commerce and investment said on its website.
It also announced the decision on Twitter, in keeping with the spirit of modernity.
“No need for a guardian’s position. Saudi women are free to start their own businesses freely #No_Need,” read the tweet.
Under Saudi Arabia’s guardianship system, women are required to offer proof that they have taken permission from their husband, father or brother to travel, fill out government paperwork or even enroll in classes — let alone starting a business.
However, now a guardian’s approval is not required to notarize documents to found a company. All start-up procedures from now on will be carried out electronically, which do not require any special approvals from men.
Although Saudi women are still constrained by the male-dominated society, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor’s office said earlier this month that it would start recruiting women investigators for the very first time.
The Gulf kingdom is also looking to hire 140 women at border crossings and airports, a historic move that, according to the government, drew 107,000 female applicants.
Saudi women used to make up a tiny fraction of the country’s labor force. But since the gulf kingdom has started to push for expansion in the private sector, the participation of women is rising fast. In July 2017, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Development announced women accounted for 30 percent of the private sector workforce — a hike of 130 percent in the past four years.
The country’s drive towards liberalization is largely credited to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is the chief architect behind “Vision 2030” — a program that seeks to elevate the percentage of women in the work force from 22 percent to one-third and pushes for a modern economy that is no longer reliant on oil.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser