Women across Saudi Arabia have marked a historic milestone, both voting and running as candidates in government elections for the first time, but just outside polling stations they waited for male drivers — a reminder of the limitations still firmly in place, the Australian reports.
“We are making history. I just made history,” said candidate Karima Bokhary, 50, after casting her ballot at a polling station in the capital, Riyadh. Ms Bokhary was one of 979 women candidates vying for a seat on the country’s municipal councils, the only government body in which Saudi citizens can elect their representatives. An additional 5968 male candidates were running in the election.
The election tested just how far the kingdom’s conservatives were willing to bend while bringing to the fore more liberal voices advocating for greater freedoms and reforms. In line with Saudi Arabia’s strict gender segregation rules, men and women cast ballots at separate polling stations. During the campaign period, female candidates could not directly address male voters and had to either present their platforms from behind a partition, relying on projectors and microphones, or through male supporters and relatives presenting for them.