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Last Updated: Monday, 11 April 2005, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
My life in Saudi: Rotana
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


Rotana

My story begins at home, where I learnt that education is really important and actually I learned that education is the most important thing in my life.

My relationship with my mother is so strong. My mother is my source of power; she taught me to be independent and to depend on myself.

Then my relationship with my father. We are like best friends and we share so much together. I love it when he treats me like a boy, it makes me feel equal and fair.

My parents don't believe in differences between genders and I think this is a privilege.

From my parents I inherited the hobby of reading. I started reading when I was five years old and I just got addicted.

My dream is to reach the highest levels in education and to prepare for my Masters or for my Phd. I think education is the basic block to build up a career and if your education is strong enough, you can build on it.

These hobbies and skills I learnt have made me a very independent young girl.

Saudi girls are very ambitious and very smart. They just want to be heard and have the opportunity to share their talents.

And for the ones who haven't discovered their hobbies and their talents yet, I tell them to search for the hobby and talent inside of you.

I want to share my success with the people around me and with my community
Your education and your career are your weapons.

What I really want to do in the future is contribute something to the society and to my family, to the world that I'm living in and especially to my city, Jeddah, where I was born.

I want to share my success with the people around me and with my community and I believe that some day, God willing, I will accomplish that.

I hope to establish my own educational institute to take care of children with special talents and orphan children as well, to give them the chance to be equal with other children and bring the best out in them.

This all comes from a religious perspective. We have the code of the Prophet and if a person takes care of an orphan child, he will go to a very high level in paradise.


The following comments reflect the balance of views received:

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Rotana, I'm a Saudi man who fully supports the need for equality for women. I also recognise that equality will not be handed to women in Saudi Arabia without women demanding it.
Hani Malik, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Rotana, Allah helps those who strive to help themselves. You seem to have mission in life. As I read your stories, I have understood that you are on the right track. May Allah help you to climb the ladder of success in life.
Ahmed Kayed, Detroit, Michigan, USA

It is not fair for women to have limitations like you do in the Kingdom from a humanitarian perspective. I do wholeheartedly agree with your plans to strive for the right to be treated fairly. It is a great service to your future generations in Saudi.
Benny Yohannan, Seattle, WA, US

For long, Saudi Arabia has been a country run by men. This kind of monopoly diminished the role of women during that phase, but not any longer. Things now are supposed to be changing and girls like you Rotana and many others armed with education can lead this change and rival men in different sectors. It is very important to see some new faces with all the new thoughts, ideas and motives which, on the other hand, will drive men to work harder to keep their positions. As a Saudi guy I am glad to hear this from my female compatriots, and here we are waiting for the competition. Good Luck.
Bader Redwan, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

I do hope that positive changes are happening in Saudi Arabia but I doubt that only partial freedoms for women like education, no matter how enriching can substitute other basic freedoms such as right of movement, voting and equal opportunities in the workplace.
Tatyana, Kyiv, Ukraine

Dear Rotana, I am writing to you as a girl of your age from Istanbul. I live in a modern, devoted Muslim family. I am happy to hear that there are Muslim girls like me around the world. I agree with your virtuous plans for future.
Sena Abay, Istanbul, Turkey

I'm glad to see that women in Saudi Arabia feel they can strive for freedom while living within the boundaries of our religion. I left Riyadh about 10-12 years ago. And I remember how limited the resources were for women at that point. But rights in the Kingdom have come a long way since and so have the positive attitudes.
Ahmad, Seattle, USA.

I used to train girl students from multimedia programs while working for a UAE television channel. I must say that while a few were passionate and motivated enough to work their way up, others simply expected to attain fancy titles and become managers overnight. Some of the girls who worked hard and endured the ups and downs of the television production environment have rightfully earned their status in a male dominated field and literally do call the shots now. Hats off to them.
Ashraf, Toronto, Canada

Most of those in the world don't really know about the challenges women have to go through everyday to prove that they can do what is needed to grant them success and happiness. What you've written expresses the dreams of the Arabian Gulf girls. Good luck Rotana.
Amal, United Arab Emirates

What is the point of education if you are not free to decide to be a single career woman living alone outside the familial constraints that Rotana accepts as a given? As a man looking in I am horrified at the difference between the rhetoric and the reality that I and my friends and their wives see whilst working and living in Saudi as European engineers. The women of Saudi are "owned" by their families and all the education in the world won't change that.
John Sinclair, Dundee, UK

Rotana, I am a Saudi living in America. I am currently studying and hope that I will return to Saudi soon and be able to contribute in the education of not only women but of our society. I applaud your independence and goals for the future.
Juwaher Hozail, Seattle, USA

It is such a positive attitude that I get from reading these great stories. Rotana, you seem like a brave, talented, and a positive individual. Keep up all the good qualities you have in you and Inshallah one day you'll reach your goals and be able to make a positive difference in this world.
Seema, US

I just wanted to say how much I identified with Rotana, even though I am an English atheist I, too, was taught by my family to value education, I too was inspired by my mother (a wonderful, strong brave woman), I too am addicted to reading, I too believe that one has a duty to help one's community, I too believe that everyone is talented and should develop those talents, I too plan to be a teacher and help others. There are some things that transcend national and religious barriers.
Sarah Warren, Vladimir, Russia

Way to go Rotana! Its wonderful and encouraging to see women with such grit and determination, especially in a male-dominated country such as Saudi. Much more heartening is the fact that your parents are right behind you in this endeavour.
Kavitha Viswanath, Palakkad, India

Rotana, coming from a background in Nigeria where girls are hardly given the chance to further their education and their rights to comment on national issues is looked down on, you would be a great inspiration to West African Muslim girls if you decided to take up their struggle.
Adam Ibrahim, Abuja, Nigeria

The lot of Saudi women is little better than the thousands of foreign workers who are routinely harassed and humiliated. Their poverty does not allow them the luxury of choice. The Saudi system is deeply flawed and one cannot but wait for the time when their oil reserves are depleted and they no longer have anything to hold the world to ransom with.
John, Canada

It is sad to read what would seem to be such an unrepresentative group of Saudi women. Recent figures indicate that only 70% of Saudi women over the age of 15 are literate, yet the talk in these interviews is about Phds. Again all we see is a perpetuation of the elitist view as to the direction of a country's population, while the majority's voice is unheard and uncared for.
James, Norwich, UK

Bravo Rotana, keep up the good work. I am inspired by you and know that you will meet your goals and dreams as you are a positive thinker. I applaud your parents for your independent upbringing. May others in your age group follow your example.
Walter Tavares, Toronto - Canada




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