The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.

In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Wage Slaves 

This is going to be one of those depressing posts. No laughs here.

I'm often very critical of my country, but it's usually directed at the self-serving royal family or the completely lunatic religious establishment. The rest of us are caught between the complacent greed and the life-denying fanaticism.

However, let's tell a good story. Well, it's a good story followed by a bad story. The good story is that the Kingdom has made enormous strides over the last few decades in literacy and education, particularly the education of girls and women. It's been a particularly good use of the oil revenues. However the bad story is that there aren't the employment opportunities to match. And what could be more frustrating than that for a female graduate? There is a tiny number of retail opportunities, including banks, for those whose families have Wasta. For rather more, there are teaching jobs. However, this can involve a 150-mile round journey to some school in the back of nowhere in a rattly old minibus, because they still have to live at home, So what do the rest do to find fulfillment? Well, a clue is that we have one of the highest birth rates in the world.

However, in some cases, SAUDI WOMEN TAKE UP FACTORY JOBS

NOT being able to find jobs suitable to their university degrees, more and more Saudi women are turning to women-run factories to make a living or kill boredom.

During the last two years, several factories opened up women s department to employ Saudi women capable of working, turning a blind eye to their university degree qualification and concentrating only on production.

There they are. Still wearing headgear, of course. It's the sort of headcovering they wear at home when they are serving coffee to the husband's male relatives and friends. Easy to see out, difficult to see in. Presumably, there is a male foreman somewhere in that room. I find the picture particularly depressing, not just because of the qualification issue, but because we still subject them to our male ideas of propriety, even when they should be able to have a little bit of freedom. It reminds me of one of those post-apocalyptic films where we are all downtroddon slaves in some grungy depressing underground chamber, guarded by one-eyed psychos toting multi-barrel machine guns. Yet, I guess they are relatively lucky; they get to go out, meet other women, earn a bit of money for themselves.

I like women. They are the live-giving force, the nurturers of our families. I believe that if there were more women politicians and statesmen, the world would be more peaceful. I am absolutely certain that if there were more women employed in Saudi Arabia, productivity and customer service would shoot thru the roof. So what hope do they have for the future? Well, King Abdullah says "Some day".

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