King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia named Norah Al-Fayez to be the new Deputy Minister for Women’s Education and replaced a number of high-ranking government officials last week. Al-Fayez is the first woman to be named to a ministerial post in the country. Advocate Wajeha al-Huwaider told CNN that “I think it’s going to be the first step toward the reform that he promised,” but that she is skeptical that Al-Fayez will have real power, in part because the country’s guardianship system continues to paralyze women.
Al-Fayez said that her appointment “is an honor not only for me but for all Saudi women. In the presence of a comprehensive operational team, I believe I’ll be able to face challenges and create positive change,” according to the Guardian.
Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia are currently limited on a number of fronts including marriage rights, freedom to travel, property ownership, education, and work. According to Human Rights Watch, although some human rights laws have been introduced in Saudi Arabia, little implementation or enforcement of these laws has occurred. At a meeting earlier this month, members of the United Nations Human Rights Council urged Saudi Arabia to actively work to end pervasive human rights violations in the country, particularly those against women and children.