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According to Trading Economics, the literacy level of female has been lower than that of males over the years in Saudi Arabia. Although the rate of literacy for women in Saudi Arabia continues to increase from year to year, it is evidential that the root cause of the low literacy of females in Saudi Arabia was caused by socio-cultural and political factors rather than economic problems. For example, the percentage of females aged between 60 and 64 years without education is 76.02% while for the average population in the same age bracket is 52.24%. On the other hand only 51.58% of women age between 50 and 54 years lack basic education compared to the 30.54% of the general population’s segment within the same age bracket. Interestingly enough, it is imperative to note that only 0.1% of the females aged 15-19 years lack education in Saudi Arabia. The statistics above infer that as the age decreases so does the rate of illiteracy among the females living in Saudi Arabia. Accordingly, it is appropriate to declare that there are more literate women in recent times than in the ancient history of Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless, the purpose of this essay is to demonstrate that the lower literacy level among the Saudi Arabian women compared to the males is not caused by economic constraints but due to unsupportive socio-cultural and political environment in the country.
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According to NBC News, the accessibility of human rights among women in Saudi Arabia is still low despite the improvements that have been made over the years. The limitation of Saudi Arabian women to access their human rights is product of the socio-cultural construct of the country and it has denied the women the opportunity to enrich themselves with life-basic knowledge concerning different industries and sectors of the economy. For example, Brinley noted that women are only tolerated when asking for their women related rights but not when they seek for opportunities that would upscale their political or national popularity.
Similarly, McKerna notes that there are some of the things that women in Saudi Arabia cannot execute yet they would be important in developing their life-skills, and social and economic knowledge. Firstly, women do not have the freedom to get married without the consent of their “wali” or parent/guardian. In addition women are required to seek the approval from the ministry of interior to get married to non-citizens in or out of Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, the women are not allowed to get married to non-Muslims people. Accordingly, the women in Saudi Arabia are constrained by the religious-related social values to only be where the males want them to be. As a result, the women are not able to explore the world because the exposure that comes with marrying from different backgrounds has not been provided to them.
The women in Saudi Arabia are also not permitted to open bank accounts. As a result, the women have little control of their finances. Even the women who are employed or have their own businesses are not allowed to control their finances (Mark). As result, the women can only self-develop themselves based on the interest of the male authorities in their lives. However, most of the males in Saudi Arabia have been raised and have the perception that the place of women is in the domestic setting hence it is very rare for the women to be enrolled for education. Accordingly, the culture of limiting the women from controlling their finances also impedes the capacity of the women to educate and develop.
In Saudi Arabia, the testimony of a woman is considered to only amount to as much as 50% the worth of the testimony from a male. Accordingly, it is difficult for the women to get free trial in Saudi Arabia (McKernan). Moreover, the justice granted to the women is also lower than that given to their male counterparts because the females can only inherit up to 50% of what the men are getting. As a result, the women end up having less resources and opportunity to better themselves in areas such as education and career development. Consequently, the culture of Saudi Arabia has limited the legal privileges of the women in the country thus, reducing their chances of increasing their literacy.
The Saudi Arabian women are also limited by culture in the area of freedom to travel. The females living in Saudi Arabia are not able to receive their passports, identification cards and visa without the approval of a male authority in their families (Human Rights Watch). Even within the country, women are not allowed to leave the home unless permitted by the male guardian. As a result, the women are not able to learn much from real-life experience and exposure hence reducing their chance of increasing their literacy.
Moreover, the women are not allowed by the Islamic culture to freely interact and converse with men. Unfortunately, the males are most learned gender in the country. The Saudi Arabian culture ensures that there are areas which are reserved strictly for the males (McKernan). Hence, the women are not allowed to mingle with men in such areas. Therefore, the denial of women to interact with the males also limits the females from acquiring peer-to-peer knowledge that is passed through socialization.
It is imperative also to note that women require the consent of the males to receive medical attention and have custody of their children. Therefore, in the event where the male authority is unfair and inhume the woman have a high probability of being either or both psychological and physiological unhealthy. Accordingly, the culture of Saudi Arabia interferes with the learning process of the females because they are more susceptible to frequent health issues.
The social- cultural tenets discussed above which limits the capacity of women to become more literate continue to prevail because the political class and the government has permitted. Therefore, the lower of women literacy, especially in the former years, was caused or allowed to prevail by the lack of political will to improve the lives of the females.
Saudi Arabia is one of the richest countries among the Islamic states because it is well-endowed with oil. Therefore, the defiance of the country to develop and implement strategies that improves the literacy of the females in the country is not caused by lack of finances but because of limiting socio-cultural background and political will. Accordingly, this essay submits that the lower literacy of females in Saudi Arabia is caused by the socio-cultural and political factors in the nation. However, the increased concerns by global activists and the Saudi Arabia government in the recent years for the rights of the females in Saudi Arabia have significantly reduced the rate of illiteracy in Saudi Arabia.
- Bruton, Brinley. Women in Saudi Arabia Make gains but Overall Rights Remain an Issue. NBC News
- Human Rights Watch. Saudi Arabia: Repression Overshadows Women’s Reforms. Human Rights Watch
- Mark, Michelle. Women in Saudi Arabia will be Allowed to Drive for the First Time here’s What They Still Cant’s Do. Pulse
- McKernan, Bethan. Eight Things Women Still Can’t Do in Saudi Arabia. Independent,
- Trading Economics. Saudi Arabia – Literacy Rate, Youth Females (% of Females Ages 15-24), Trading Economics,2018