All-Male 'Girls Council' Takes Stage for the First Time, Showcasing 13 Men

Saudi Arabia, a country that ranks near the bottom of global surveys on gender rights, showed a glimmer of hope when the governor of Qassim province announced the first kingdom's Girls Council.

However, when the Qassim Girls Council met for its first time this weekend, no women were on the stage. Instead, 13 men were on the stage, The Washington Post reports.

The council, that was created in order to ensure that a greater number of women had a voice and were exposed to more opportunities, is now being called "the all-male 'girls council.'"

Instead of being present on stage, women were kept in another room where they watched a livestreamed video of the council.

In Saudi Arabia, a strict policy states that unrelated men and women are not allowed to mix, The Washington Post reports. It's known that mixing could lead to criminal charges, which are usually harsher for women.

Princess Abir bint Salman, who is head of the council and wife to Prince Faisal bin Mishaal bin Saud, governor of Qassim province, is said to have been in the photo if it weren’t for the harsh law.

The Prince was taken back by the reaction to the council's first meeting after great hopes that its implementation would help to break barriers versus the world reaction it has caused.

"In the Qassim region, we look at women as sisters to men, and we feel a responsibility to open up more and more opportunities that will serve the work of women and girls," he said, according to BBC.

Many ideologies and laws in Saudi Arabia hold women back from being immersed in the economy. For example, many religious beliefs prohibit women from driving, and in order to work, women have to ask male relatives for permission.

These placed permissions, ideologies, and laws are not only hurting women's rights but also the economy. For one, women being unable to drive has caused Saudi Arabia billions of dollars.

Now, a new plan is seeking to boost women's participation in the workforce and is making a major step in the right direction. A woman was appointed chief executive of a major Saudi bank for the first time last month and a woman was appointed as chair of the Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange.

The new plan hopes to drive women's involvement in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent by the year 2030, The Washington Post reports.

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Photo Credit: Facebook/UN Watch