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Influence stronger than espresso

The experience I got from researching this project is beautiful. The beauty runs in three strong women that have been very influential in my life. They are beautiful in person, soul and character. I talked to my mum Reema, aunt Nadia and my high school teacher Laila. Talking to them about their past and personal lives was a new experience. In the past, I have only interacted with them for the titles they hold in my life and sometimes for light moments. I have admired each of them from a young age and now I hold even more respect after learning more about them. The experienced surprised me in that I could have asked these questions and learnt about them earlier but I didn’t. I am glad that now I know. For my subjects, I believe that they were happy to divulge information about their lives to me at this age because now I can understand what their lives mean. I chose all three of them because of my admiration for the character they hold. They have shaped my identity to a more confident girl, more self-assured than most girls back home.

In this paper, I will discuss four themes: education, culture, politics and traditions. Before conducting my research, I first identified the themes that were very important to me and developed questions for each subject with specific focus. I did not ask them about their general lives but rather asked them specific questions. An example is asking my teacher what education was like for girls when she was growing up.

I will begin with education. In this country, education is a basic right for everyone. Both boys and girls are born and have equal chance at attending any school they choose. My teacher Laila was born in 1960. She is a lucky woman. ‘I was born in 1960 and first joined school in 1967. Back then, there was no preparatory school like today, one joined school when they were 7 years and above. I am a lucky girl because I was born in the year the government established the first school for girls. Before then, girls did not see the inside of classrooms. Education was only reserved for boys. The women before my generation are all illiterate,’ says teacher Laila. Education in this instance was discriminatory against girls.Influence stronger than espresso

While education contains religious studies, it should not control education. In the case of teacher Laila, it was different. ‘Wining the fight for education for girls was a small fit because soon we knew that men were still in control. The department of Religious Guidance controlled education for the girl child. They dictated what we learned and we were only allowed to be homemakers, nurses or teachers. These careers reminded us daily that we were women and reserved for certain roles only,’ teacher Laila. Her experience teaches me that education for the girl child has made strides. Today the government is responsible for the education of all children and a girl can pick up any career they like and Saudi Arabia even has an all women university. All class readings we have done concerning education show that it is best for society and no one should be excluded from receiving knowledge.

The next theme is tradition. In this theme I aimed at representing my social foundation. Back home, boys and girls and men and women have different social lives. A girl for example cannot attend a party where males who are not related to her are present. When I asked my mum what frustrates her about this tradition she said, ‘There are times I have wanted to treat my children to a good meal at a restaurant but even a simple thing like eating at a restaurant without my husband is prohibited.’  Back home, restaurants are divided in family sections and bachelor sections. Women and related men sit at the family sections which are also divided to provide privacy to each family. For some restaurants, a woman visiting alone may be turned back.

This situation extends to public buildings where men and women use different doors, segregated workplaces or workout areas and even fun places like the beach or in concerts. This tradition of segregating the sexes is unfair especially to the social lives of girls. It is not even religious because in the days of the Holy book, interaction was free. In addition, men interact with female servants who are not their kin all the time. Social life means interaction without inhibition. I wish this could change because girls desire interaction as well. Interacting with the male folk does not always lead to prostitution, adultery or fornication. Insight from either gender should be appreciated by the other as it is part of life experience. In class, social interactions in readings are a normal part of life.Influence stronger than espresso

The next theme is culture. My country has a culture called the guardianship system. It is a culture that places men on higher authority. A woman seeking to do anything purposeful in life either education, travelling or about to make a major decision must seek the permission of a male within the family. According to culture readings, ours is a patriarchy. It is funny that sometimes, a woman may need the permission from her own son who is younger. No one can speak better on this than my widowed aunt. ‘After losing my husband, I had to seek travel permission from my uncle as I have neither son nor brothers. It is difficult as this is a man with their own family and little time for what I have to say. Getting approval is the hardest task,’ aunt Nadia. I am however glad that petitions seeking the demolition of this culture for widows and divorced women is in the works. ‘I am waiting patiently for that day,’ said aunt Nadia when I told her about the petition.

‘I am sick and tired of the things women cannot do in this society,’ aunt Nadia. These words bring me to my final theme, politics. This year for the first time, women in Saudi Arabia can drive themselves for the first time in history. ‘I am getting my first car soon and it will be my duty to take all my female relatives for a ride when I feel like!’ said a happy aunt Nadia. She works with a charity organisation and owns a foreign licence because she drives when outside Saudi Arabia. This is a purely political move because it only needed King Abdullah’s approval. All other reasons for women not driving in the past were pure politics. According to the readings on power, it is easy to see why politics is as giving and as prohibiting. The driving force of any politician is what they believe in.

In conclusion, I have seen myself in each theme presented. I am studying the course of my dreams, I study in a foreign land were my interaction with males is not prohibited by culture and while here, I require no permission from any male. I am glad that in the near future I can drive my mother anywhere in Saudi Arabia. It is a revolutionary time for girls my age. This course has impacted every aspect of my life and I am better for it. This experience has opened my eyes to what I should be grateful about and what should be fought for, for a better Saudi Arabia in the quest for women rights. I am glad that politics in my country now stands for better things and not just the oppression of women. I truly regret not being in that stadium to watch my first football match live. Even though segregation still applied in the access to this right, it is a small price to pay.Influence stronger than espresso




No. Date Subject Relation to subject Method of interview Length of interview
1. 6th November, 2018 Reema Mother Phone 1 hour
2. 7th November, 2018 Nadia Aunt Phone 1 hour
3. 8th November, 2018 Laila Teacher Phone 1 hour