BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Monday, 11 April 2005, 10:07 GMT 11:07 UK
My life in Saudi: Baiyanne
Eight young Saudi women discuss their lives and how they hope to progress in the next 10 years.

22, student

21, student

22, student

21, student

17, student

27, translator

21, housewife


The reason I picked special education to study is because I once worked in a nursing home as a volunteer.

I could see people that needed help and it really upset me because I couldn't help them.

I've also been to an orphanage which affected me deeply. It made me look at life very differently.

But no matter how much I study, I'm always just me, doing what I want, being cool, being a young teenager.

I'm not going to go the wrong way. I don't do drugs or spend money on things we don't need like cigarettes, phone cards, internet cards, magazines or CDs.

People buy all these magazines and read about people's personal lives but it won't help our lives. Why do we need to read about these things?

And people have to have all these cell phones, they have to have the best ones, the latest ones. Why?

My biggest role model is my dad

And all they hope for in the future is to just get married. They're not really looking about them to see who's actually asking for help, who's holding out their hands, saying please help us.

It's there in every community. These people might not ask, but you need to open your mind and open your heart to other people.

My biggest role model is my dad. He has two wives. He has two families. His other wife lives elsewhere and we live in Jeddah. No matter how much he's not there and he's at her house, he's always still present mentally.

He's always calling us, talking to us on the phone. He might not think that he does enough, but he does more than enough.

The following comments reflect the balance of views received:

This debate is now closed. Thank you for comments.

I agree with Baiyanne. It's good that you have principles, you know what is good for you and you follow it. Sometimes teenagers just think about their own lives, they don't realise that some other people are unfortunate, they haven't got insight, God willing may be in the future they will. However don't judge people who are like that because we never know that maybe one they will change, it's just their phase of life, every human will seek for purpose in life.
Shira, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I think a lot of work still remains to be done, but I hope all these ladies one day will have better capabilities in their society like here in the US.
Rahman Rahmani, New York, USA

I think that it is very interesting how you can have a girl in a modern and unrestricted society like America, who has no main focus to her life and no goals, and then a girl who comes from a very restricted society like Saudi Arabia, with set standards and clear goals. Sometimes it really makes me wonder about our media, the society that we Americans live in and what we are truly implementing into children today.
Izzy Becker, Los Angeles USA

I am a Muslim and I have been living in USA for almost eight years now, there is a quite a bit of difference they way you identify "fun" and the Muslims do. Covering up yourself in Islam is just a good practice, when showing your body in most western countries is being "sexy" or "good-looking" or "hot". It just different perspectives. No one can force one's beliefs on the other, and they should not. Try to understand the other, if you can't, then accept the fact you don't understand but just don't define it as wrong.
Mostafa, Houston, USA

She says that she is open-minded, but yet she judges those who read magazines. Reading about others is a way to understand. Just think about where we would be if the National Geographic didn't exist. It seems to me that reading between the lines, she doesn't have a lot of fun. Yes, you should try to help people as often as you can, but you should also have some fun in life.
Lisa Koepf, Brainerd, USA

Wow, after reading the comment on this page, I really think about my peers here in Canada. Some of the lucky ones are focused similarly to girls in Saudi Arabia such as Baiyanne, but the majority in Canada have been completely distracted. Girls obsessing about their appearance, smoking, and trashy teen mags. Baiyanne may not have all of the freedoms that I or my friends have, but what she does have is a clear focus on how she wants to live her life.
Jasmin, Toronto, Canada

I was very impressed with what Baiyanne had to say. She has identified the important thing in life - caring for others - and she can see the shallowness of a consumer society. I wish you all the best, Baiyanne, and I hope you will continue to study and to grow, as the world needs more caring people such as yourself to be an example to our communities in the future.
Barbara, Christchurch, New Zealand

I like the bit about the two wives. Jokes aside though, for a 17-year-old girl in a closed society that restrict women's rights immensely - she seems to be like any other educated, clean-cut teenager.
Colm, Saigon, Vietnam

To Lisa Koepf: I believe you misconstrued her comments. I think she was referring to celebrity/gossip magazines, not something formative or educational. Also, your terse statement at the end further reveals the predilection Westerners have for assuming Arab women are like highly oppressed zombies whose lives have no meaning. I lived for several years in several Arab countries and have seen many women making positive changes. Don't knock what you can't see and know nothing about. Keep helping people, Baiyanne, your country needs more compassionate individuals like yourself.
Deluso, Texas, USA

I think she is not referring to magazines like National Geographic, but maybe she is alluding to tabloids that make a living talking about people's lives. People get caught up in that and she apparently doesn't think it is useful to read trashy magazines. I believe that people have different ways of having fun. She seems to enjoy her life as it is. Keep the faith and never stop helping others because that is the true meaning of humanity.
Badou, Madison, Wisconsin, USA

I am happy to see that many Saudi Arabian girls are doing so well in Saudi's academic institutions. They are role models for younger girls, and will hopefully be instrumental in the future for achieving greater rights for women in Saudi Arabia.
Elaine, Los Angeles, CA, US

Dear Lisa, In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to assume that the standards that we use in our lives is the same standard that everyone else uses/should use. Who gets to define what 'fun' is? Everything is relative, and in that way, no one is absolutely wrong or absolutely right, either. Furthermore, Baiyanne is only 17, and still forging her identity, so to judge her by adult standards is unfair, I think. I suspect that the magazines she might be referring to are tabloids or something of the like. Anyhow, I am glad that we are actually hearing from Saudi women instead of from second-hand sources that usually paint their situation in a negative light.
Ananya, New York, NY, USA

I think that Baiyanne has a great outlook on life and I hope that she holds on to her vision even though she will run into those people like Lisa Koepf who think that if you are not reading celebrity magazines or carrying the latest gadget then you must not be having fun. Most people are judged by others in our society whether we like it or not, yet it is moving to hear from people like Baiyanne who seems to not be manipulated by rampant commercialism and can understand that genuine compassion for helping others can be rewarding and fun.
Tetsuyo, Los Angeles, USA

'My life': Egyptian women speak
20 Sep 04 |  Middle East


Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific