Take Action: End Male Guardianship in Saudi Arabia. Give Women Equal Opportunities to Education.

Swasan and her father

Swsan and her father

Equality Now has just issued Women’s Action 31.4 Saudi Arabia: Give women equal opportunities to education and end male guardianship over women which adversely impacts rights to education. 

Swsan Ali El Demini, a bright and ambitious 18-year-old Saudi girl, has dreams of getting the best education. However, Swsan’s education has been an uphill struggle. Raised in Saudi Arabia under a system of male guardianship, Swsan has been lucky in that her father, considered her male guardian, has supported her dreams. However, the educational facilities and fields of study available to Swsan under Saudi Arabia’s sex segregated education system are inferior and much more limited than those available to Saudi boys. As such, Swsan hopes to continue her studies overseas in the United States. However, as her family requires government assistance to cover the cost of a US education, Swsan is unable to apply because of the requirement of the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education that a male guardian accompany any Saudi female who studies abroad on a government scholarship. This requirement is enforced through forms needing the signature of a male guardian before permission is granted to study abroad and regular monitoring by the Saudi cultural attaché in the country where the degree is being pursued. Failure to comply with the requirement can result in ending the scholarship. Swsan cannot study abroad even though both parents are willing to accompany her because her father has been barred from traveling out of Saudi Arabia due to his political activism and her mother is not considered her guardian. (Read more....)

Equality Now calls upon the government of Saudi Arabia to revoke all requirements that hinder female students from pursuing their education at all stages including the requirement that a male guardian accompany any Saudi female who studies abroad on a government scholarship. In addition, Equality Now calls upon the government to ensure that the Saudi legal and judicial system reflect the stated claim that women are not subject to male guardianship, but rather have the right, among other things, to pursue all levels of education with access to the same fields of study, educational resources and facilities and on the same terms as their male counterparts. 

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