Nikita Richardson
December 14, 2015 10:32 am

Back in August, we shared the news that after a tiresome, four-year-long wait, women in Saudi Arabia would finally have the right to not only vote, but run for public office. Four months later, the conservative government of the Middle Eastern country has delivered on its promise, with women heading to the polls to vote for the first time in the nation’s history.

With women outnumbered 6 to 1 at the polls, hopes were that maybe one of the more than 900 women who declared their candidacy for municipal council seats would be elected to serve their country, but in a stunning turn of events (and a possible sign of things to come) at least 17 women were elected to serve on their city’s local councils.

The fight for political representation wasn’t an easy one: Female candidates were forbidden to campaign in person with male voters and will comprise less than 1% of Saudi Arabia’s council members. Additionally, the many women looking to exercise their voting rights found it difficult to make it to the polls. After all, women in Saudi Arabia still aren’t allowed to drive or leave their homes without the approval of a male guardian.

It’s these policies that have caused the country to rank low on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report at a dismal 134 out of 145, a negligible improvement over its position as 130 out of 142 in 2014.

But this new generation of female political leaders may be able to turn that figure around. In their new positions as council members, they will be responsible for setting taxes, preparing and approving budgets, overseeing development projects, and making other financial and infrastructural decisions.

It’s not much, but it’s something, and we wish these women nothing but the best in their budding political careers.

Related reading: 

For the first time ever, women in Saudi Arabia will now get to vote

[Image via Shutterstock]

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