Mona El-Naggar reports: “We’re not allowed to even go to the supermarket without permission or a companion, and that’s a simple thing on the huge, horrendous list of rules we have to follow.” — DOTOPS, 24
“The male guardianship makes my life like a hell!! We want to hang out with our friends, go and have lunch outside. I feel hopeless.” — JUJU19, 21
“I don’t mind taking my dad’s approval in things he should be a part of. These very strong social bonds you will never, ever understand.” — NOURA
These are three of the nearly 6,000 women from Saudi Arabia who wrote to The New York Times last week about their lives.
We had put a call-out on our website and on Twitter in conjunction with the publication of “Ladies First,” a Times documentary I directed about the first Saudi elections in which women were allowed to vote and run for local office.
Saudi Arabia is an incredibly private, patriarchal society. While I was making the film, many women were afraid to share their stories for fear of backlash from the male relatives who oversee all aspects of their lives as so-called guardians. We wanted to hear more about their fears, their frustrations, their ambitions.
Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s highest rates of Twitter use, and our posts rocketed around. We were overwhelmed by the outpouring.
Most of the responses focused on frustration over guardianship rules that force women to get permission from a male relative — a husband, father, brother or even son — to do things like attend college, travel abroad, marry the partner of their choice or seek medical attention. Some women talked about the pride they had in their culture and expressed great distrust of outsiders. But many of them shared a deep desire for change and echoed Juju19’s hopelessness. [Continue reading…]