The first female members of Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council were sworn in by King Abdullah on Tuesday.
The Shura Council, composed of 150 members, councils the government in decisions regarding legislation. However, the Council does not have legislative powers itself and all members are appointed by the king. 30 women now hold seats on the Council, which is the first time women have held public office in the country.
Thuraya al-Arrayed, one of the 30 new female Council members told the BBC “I must say it’s an historic occasion. I’m honoured to be part of it. If it works, if it is positive then it will change the attitudes that are still worrying about the participation of women. I’m not just talking about the Shura Council, I’m talking about the empowerment of women and their participation in the general affairs of the country.”
Despite this advancement, women in Saudi Arabia face limited public involvement. In 2011, the King granted women the right to vote and run for public office as early as 2015. Despite gaining the right to vote, Saudi women still have to rely on male relatives or paid drivers to get around by car due to a religious edict issued by Muslim clerics. Women are also being tracked by text message.