Firms run only by women, women in production lines, and the go-to-place for women wishing to gain financial independence. This is the picture that Saudi Arabia’s controversial industrial city built exclusively for women paints. Set for construction next year in the municipality of Hafuf, the plan is meant to give the career-minded females of the Kingdom the opportunity to work without going against Sharia Law.
Saudi Industrial Property Authority (Modon) is handling the project which is expected to create 5,000 jobs for women interested to work in the textile, pharmaceutical, and food processing industries. This is just one of the moves the government has been taking up lately in a bid to give its women more chances to find employment.
At present, only 15 percent of Saudi’s women are represented in the workforce.
Earlier, women have already replaced staff in perfume stores and lingerie shops and last September, King Abdullah had already given women the right to vote and run in the 2015 local elections.
While the driving force behind women-city is fueled more by economics than the advancement of women’s rights, readers of the news which appeared on Mail Online are not happy. Luke T of London considers it “Gender apartheid” while A.N. of Norwich says: “It would be laughable if they weren’t serious. I feel so very fortunate to have been born in a western country. It’s not religion that is the worst problem, it’s MEN!! They make the laws, they make the rules, they interpret religion to suit themselves in their dominance over women.”
Hani of Saudi is frustrated: “I am Saudi and Muslim, but this is so against nature. It is frustrating that, in Saudi, few extremists have all the power to brainwash a whole country and plan such ridicules ideas. It is more frustrating that we are still wasting our gifted resources on this nonsense, instead of research and technology. We are a new country and our society is very basic, but this is WRONG.”
But Zoe Williams of The Guardian thinks that the plan could empower Saudi women in other unexpected ways. She surmises: “Saudi Arabian women are often very highly educated (the country also has the world’s largest women-only university) but then barred from the jobs market – and when you educate people, refuse to let them work and then suddenly unleash them, en masse, into economic productivity, that’s almost an open invitation to them to be better than you.” As a result, she predicts that Ladytown will be more productive and consequently richer—a place where men will eventually be “beating down the door to get in.”