The outstanding women’s rights activist, Wajeha Al-Huwaider, has launched a new campaign against the guardianship system that is imposed on Saudi women.
She has been trying to leave the country by crossing the King Fahad Causeway, which connects Saudi Arabia with Bahrain -- without permission from a male relative. She has already attempted this three times. All three attempts have failed. The last one took place on June 25th. She was held in the causeway passport office for more than four hours. She said she will try again later this week.
The Saudi guardianship system gives men total control over women’s lives. The system treats women as juveniles. In essence, women cannot function without a male guardian’s permission. Under this system, Saudi women are not allowed to get married, get divorced, study, work, travel, receive medical care or even leave the house unless they have approval from a male relative.
If a school telephones to say a child is sick, its mother may not go to the school.
Al-Huwaider is asking the Saudi government to remove these restrictions on women’s lives by cancelling the guardianship system. She wants women to be treated as responsible citizens, as are men.
Her plan is to continue to go every weekend until she is allowed across the border, and she is asking other women to join in this fight for change.
Every day, Al-Huwaider sends out text messages asking women to go to any border to try to cross it without permission from their male relatives.
Recently, Sarah Meshfi, a journalist from Abha, tried to go to the local airport in response to Al-Huwaider’s calls. Meshfi was stopped by her uncle in the middle of the road before she even reached the airport grounds. Meshfi said she would try again.
Al-Huwaider hopes that by bringing attention to the struggle against this restrictive guardianship system, Saudi women might soon be able to control their own lives.
“Either you treat us as responsible adults or let us leave the country,” she said. “Please let everybody know about our struggle to gain our lives back.”