Target: Shura Council of Saudi Arabia
Goal: Commend Saudi Arabia for expanding sports opportunities for girls in schools
The Shura Council, Saudi Arabia’s highest body of consultation, recently voted to approve a recommendation that the Ministry of Education begin expanding sports opportunities to girls in public schools. Although it may seem like a small step, and the implementation process may take some time, this historic vote marks an important expansion of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. The fight for rights for women and girls in Saudi Arabia has been long and hard fought, however it appears that the tide is finally turning. This vote is just one in a series of reforms enacted or proposed recently by Saudi officials.
As late as 2012, Saudi Arabia was still the only country in the world that denied any physical education for girls in public schools. In addition to the lack of physical education classes available to girls, there were no organized sports for girls, and all professional sports venues remain open only to men. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education decreed that girls can play sports in private all-girls schools, provided they remain modestly dressed. However, the Saudi government continues to deny funding for women’s sports on the professional level, both nationally and internationally. These restrictions violate the Olympic Charter’s policy of non-discrimination. In this instance, perhaps change will start with the youth, and some day Saudi Arabia will boast a fully funded women’s Olympic delegation.
According to Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director of the Human Rights Campaign, “The Shura Council vote shows that the Saudi government can buck the conservative establishment and take steps to end discriminatory practices against women when it wants to.” Although in matters of policy and cultural attitudes, Saudi Arabia has a long way to go in the realm of women’s rights, the ability of girls to be physically active during the school day is an important victory. Commend the Shura Council on their progressive actions today.
Dear Members of the Shura Council,
Thank you for voting to recommend to the Ministry of Education that girls be permitted to play sports in public schools. Reforms like this are vital steps toward equality for Saudi women. Decisions like these can only increase the international community’s respect for Saudi Arabia.
I am writing today to commend your decision and to urge you to keep up the good work.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: عاشق حايل via wikimedia commons