Lama Al-Sulaiman and Nashwa Taher have become the first Saudi women to be elected, winning seats on the board of the Jiddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Arab News quotes Al-Sulaiman as declaring, “I’m excited and exhausted…I’m still in shock. I worked hard and went for a win…” This is the first time women have been on a ballot in Saudi Arabia.
According to the Associated Press, women account for 10% of the membership of the 40,000 member Jiddah Chamber. The two women elected were among seventeen women who ran with 54 men for 12 open seats on the board. BBC reports that while 4,000 men voted in the election, only about 100 women did so, indicating that the elected women earned many of their votes from men.
Last year, the Saudi Interior Minister announced that Saudi women would be excluded from running or voting in municipal council elections. The decision was another blow to women in a country where a husband’s permission is required in order for a woman to work, study, or travel. Women are also barred from driving, leaving home without being fully covered with black cloaks, or mixing with men in public.