UPDATE: This article appeared in today’s Al Arabiya firmly stating there will be NO Women-Only City.
Here is what American Bedu had originally posted on the subject prior to the update:
The Saudi Industrial Property Authority, otherwise known as “Modon,” has been charged to lead a new governmental initiative. Towards promoting more opportunities and allowing women to capitalize on their university degrees and skills, a sharia compliant city for women-only will be built in the town of Hafuf located in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province.
Initial plans for the city are described as creating at least 5000 jobs for women in the textile, pharmaceutical and food processing industries. Women will hold leadership roles as well as staff and line positions.
The city of Hafuf expects to attract 500 million riyals (US$133 million) in investments for this venture.
Hafuf has a population of 1.2 million according to a 2009 census. Hafuf is the closest city to Saudi Arabia’s famous Ghawar oil field. Hafuf is known as a cultural city within the Kingdom and the women-only campus of King Faisal University offers women the ability to medicine, dentistry and home economics. Hafuf is serviced by Damman’s King Fahd Airport which is located 130 kilometers away from Hafuf.
There are also unspecified plans in the works to create a second women-only city at an undisclosed location.
The global populace will likely view the women –only city as a mixed blessing. On one hand it is opening up additional opportunities for women but with boundaries. Does the Hafuf population have enough women in its general area who have the desire to work or will women from elsewhere in the Kingdom be expected to relocate to Hafuf for better employment opportunities? If a woman wants to relocate to Hafuf, what barriers might she face from family towards realizing the opportunity?
Are women-only cities the roadway that must be paved in order for women to receive more rights and opportunities? Will a women-only city limit or free the Saudi woman? If she must work in a women-only city how does that prepare a future executive or leader to be successful in an international environment?
The topic of greater opportunities for women makes me think of tried, true and also innovative ways for Saudi women to become entrepreneurs without the need to travel to a women-only city.
Saudi women are known fashionistas and I write that in a positive manner. I am surprised that there are less women engaged in home shopping ventures where haute couture or fashions of favorite designers are not brought to groups of women in their homes. Home party sales of lingerie seems like it would also be a tailored success for the Saudi market.
There’s no reason a Saudi woman could not be an accountant or financial consultant from her own home office.
I want Saudi women to have opportunities for employment and advancement but I’m not convinced yet that women-only cities are the way to go. Are you?
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