Sunday, Dec. 13 brought change to Saudi Arabia’s government, as 20 women were elected to local government seats. The Associated Press reported these results only a day after women “voted and ran in elections for the first time in the country’s history,” says The Huffington Post.
Glamour reports that women won seats as local councilors in several districts, representing a range of cities across the country. Women now hold four positions in Jeddah and one near Mecca (Islam’s holiest city), among others in Tabuk, Ahsaa, Riyadh, Jawf and Qatif. This position gives them the authority to advise local governments and oversee budgets.
978 women registered as candidates for 284 municipal councils in Saudi Arabia, Glamour reports. Although 20 females were elected, The Huffington Post says that they only represent one percent of the 2,100 available seats.
Rashna Hefzi, who won a seat in Jeddah, ran on the campaign slogan, “We have begun and we will continue, ” according to Glamour. Forced to speak at public events behind a partition and barred from appearing on TV, Hefzi, a business woman, harnessed the power of social media to attract voters to the polls.
Banned candidate Nassima al-Sada said in an interview that it’s time to change people think about women, which could start by allowing women to come to the decision-making table alongside their male colleagues.
She went on to explain that this election’s results are not merely a façade of change in the country. “Many people think elections are just for show because the government wants to demonstrate that there are reforms here. It doesn’t matter what the government wants. What matters is how I can use this to change things. Globalization and social media mean the whole world is connected. Change will happen. The only question is how long it will take.”