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Last Updated: Monday, 11 April 2005, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
My life in Saudi: Lama
Eight young Saudi women discuss their lives and how they hope to progress in the next 10 years.

Lama:
22, student

Rotana:
21, student

Abla:
22, student

Rosana
21, student

Baiyanne:
17, student

Hasna:
27, translator

Asma:
21, housewife


Lama

My life is about three things. The first is religion. I believe it's the path for our life. We look at religion before we do anything in our life, before we take any road.

The second one is my mother, who gave me love, trust, joy and comfort. She's a role model to me.

Marriage is the final part. Being with someone committed, with love and comfort.

My family is also important. My sister is an interior designer who already has her own business. She's a great role model to me and she's always a shoulder to cry on.

My other sister is an artist, she paints. My brother is in the Saudi Air Force - he protects and takes care of us and believes we are role models for our society.

I would like to take a masters in forensic psychology. Unfortunately, it is not offered in Saudi Arabia nor other Arab countries.

I want to be a role model and bring hope to other women, to show we Saudi women are not different from any other women.

Women here have a lot of ambitions and motivation... I believe they will guide the world one day

Education has no limits. It's a choice. It's in your hands - the most important thing my family did is accept me for who I am and not for who they want me to be.

I'm adopted. They are not my blood family, but God takes from you and God gives to you.

I have two regular hobbies, photography and floral design, but I have another, which is the wish to make women's education important and ensure women are free to choose their education.

Being a role model is important to me because I believe women here have a lot of ambitions and motivation.

All they need is a push and I believe they will guide the world one day.


The following comments reflect the balance of views received:

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments

Instead of pulling girls like these down, I think we should encourage them and not belittle their hopes and dreams just because people like Pradeep only want to look at the negative side of society, which exists everywhere and not only in Saudi Arabia. People should believe the girls when they say things are changing. Andy, the Wahabi form of Islam is not as strong as it once was - so lets look forward and not backwards. Otherwise we will stifle development.
Mona, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Most of us have not been to Saudi Arabia. We only know the country as it is represented in the media i.e. Islamic, extremist, patriarchal. Why don't we all look in our backyards and try to deal with the fact that women everywhere are oppressed in some form or the other? Why does the image of a veiled woman have to be interpreted as grotesque and violent?
Falak, Pakistan, Singapore

Seeing the comments from both sides. I get the feeling that these women are now having to fight widespread cynicism from other readers. This kind of exposure will be good, not only for these women. Expanding a little on what Pradeep said, let the women from other classes also meet up with these role models in their society, then all of the others will clearly see how this is good for the plight of women in general. At this stage these women deserve not only our respect but a lot less cynicism from those still not convinced.
Sharad, LA, USA

All these women who had been interviewed had had the family support to pursue their ambition which is very rare in an Islamic country. But these women cannot represent those millions of women in their country who does not have the rights even to take decision for themselves or for any one else. Better interview those women and let the world know about them and let those women know what lies around them and their world, to get the difference about their lives and those successful women in their country and outside.
Pradeep P Latare, Mumbai, India

I have lived in Saudi Arabia. The only young women that I ever met with these ladies outlooks was in London where they had the freedom to speak out. Did any of these bright, young women get the chance to vote in the recent elections? Interesting that Rotana says about her dad: "I love it when he treats me like a boy, it makes me feel equal and fair." Too bad her father can't simply treat her equally as a young woman.
Brian Collins, Manama, Bahrain

Lama is right that education has no boundaries and limits. Especially, there should be no restrictions on education for women, as we usually do have restrictions in Arab and South Asian countries. The intellectual capabilities of women are equivalent to men. Women can also do better than men, if provided opportunities to exercise their own rights. Unfortunately, in South Asian and Arab countries men dominate the society and dictate the lives of their womenfolk, which is pathetic. Men are scared and dislike having women as their leaders. I, being a man, am in favour of education for women and more chances to be given to women to prove themselves. In this 21st century, we can get so many examples where women have outsmarted men. We have women leaders, women politicians, women entrepreneurs sitting alongside men and taking tough decisions.
Murad Ali, London, United Kingdom

I live between London and Riyadh, where I am currently on vacation, and I studied at university here in Saudi Arabia. Andy: It isn't true that these girls won't fulfil their dreams because in the last five years I've seen such dramatic changes for women here in the Middle East. The whole thing you said about what is taught in school here is also last century! Also, all women from all backgrounds have access to higher education in Saudi Arabia as it is free and students even get paid a monthly salary just to encourage higher education here. The people who don't have access to education are prevented by their families and that is very rare here now. The last decade has seen radical reform for women, and although I am continuing my education in the UK now, I know I'd want to continue my career here in Saudi Arabia, because now we have the chance to stand out!
Haifa, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

I too have lived in Saudi on and off over many years and have had the privilege of working with Saudi women. Although this project is good in bringing to light women in Saudi it has chosen a select wealthy group, I would have liked to see a broader view including women of lower income status. Saudi women for many years have had their own companies, there are Saudi nurses and doctors in the workplace - but let us here more from the middle and lower classes.
Annette Compson, Florida USA

Lama it's amazing that you realised the importance of three things (religion, your mother, marriage) at such a young age (22). In university many of my friends were Saudi and they all had the kind of full spirit and wisdom that you have. As for the negative comments about the prospects for women in Islamic countries- I can speak from personal experience that the condition of women is more related to socio-economic factors than religion.
Lea, Bahamas, West Indies

Good luck Lama, I really hope you do well in life. The thing is due to media Islam is very misrepresented. It's not some hostile religion that oppresses women. That's what media has made it out to be. The reason that some women are oppressed are not for religious reasons, because the oppressors are going against Islam. They are mostly cultural reasons, or political ones. I'm glad that BBC decided to show that not all women are being treated horribly like most media suggests.
Sunia, USA

Andy: did you not read what these Saudi women are saying? They are all doing what they want to do and they are utilizing their talent. They might not be doing it in the same domain of your Western thinking but surely they are doing it in their own domain. There is nothing wrong with the Wahabi form of Islam or for that matter any form of Islam.
Anis Hoda, Los Angeles

It is really great that these women are all so ambitious, but it seems like a very select group of women to have interviewed. Why weren't women from less privileged backgrounds in Saudi Arabia given a chance to discuss how their lives operate? I would like to have read stories from women who did not have access to higher education, as these women clearly did. I think the stories did not represent fairly the women of Saudi Arabia.
Audre Pruitt, Indianapolis, USA

Lama, I like your spirit. You can surely be a role model. Please keep that spirit alive!
Babawande Ipoola Afolabi, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

I like your courage. One should stand up to challenges and always believe in yourself. All the best in your career
Aliyu Makama, Abuja, Nigeria

It's a sad fact, but in the most conservative of Islamic countries, these young women have no chance of fulfilling any of the dreams expressed in these articles. In fact the most likely option in Saudi Arabia is a full Sharia government after some sort of bloody revolt, which will hardly help their cause at all. The Wahabi form of Islam that the Saudi madrassas teach (and which has been exported to other areas such as Afghanistan, Pakistan etc with the connivance of the Saudi government) is the least yielding form of Islam and is the breeding ground for much of the social unrest in that Kingdom. It's ironic that it will be this that brings them down, rather than the governments abroad that it was aimed at.
Andy, UK




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


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