“My Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me”

In August a campaign was launched titled “My Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me”. The aim of the campaign is to stand against women who are demanding to be treated as adults. Yes you read it right, a campaign that demands that the status qou remains as is. The campaign is headed by two  princesses and has two rivaling websites. And since it has gotten a lot of attention and some rumors that the two princesses were fighting over whose idea it was, the “Who are we” page has been taken down on one of them. The goal of the campaign is to gather one million signatures from Saudi women who support it. On the bottom of the main page of the weaker website is a button that says click to vote and when you click it, it automatically counts as a vote of support! The other website’s button actually asks for specifics like name and city. The stronger website is here and the weaker one here.

Below I’ve translated Dr. Elham Manea’s piece on the how and why of this campaign: 

I swear I almost smiled, but how could I smile?
Then I said to myself, that people are people, in their wisdom or weakness, here or there, no difference.
So I contemplated rather than smile.

Some Saudi women have decided to express themselves.
They wanted to take a stand against human rights activists calling for Saudi Arabia to give women some (not all) of the rights that are enjoyed by their Arab counterparts in neighboring countries. So they came out with a new campaign titled “My Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me”.  
Do we blame them? All they wanted was to fix a problem they know nothing of, and thus made it worse.  It would be strange to expect anything else from them. You cannot miss what you’ve never had.

Most of them belong to the Saudi aristocrats. Their leader is a princess. Their hands are velvet. They live in palaces and villas. How could we blame them for not knowing the reality of average Saudi women?

These campaigner are only worried about Saudi women. They are protecting women from themselves.They are protecting us from activists, activists who have lived the reality of being a Saudi woman in the East, West, North and South of Saudi Arabia. They know how we suffer, and how we are subjected to humiliation on a daily basis. Luckily, these activists are not princesses.

These activists believe we should be treated as adults and humans and not as children and minors, and not as digraces to be covered. Activists who are tired of this reality of suffering and daily humiliation and so they call for the guardian system to be absolved.

These campaigners who stand againsts activists see nothing strange in the fact that we are the only Muslim country that bans women driving. Isn’t it funny that Saudi Arabia is unique in this odd religious aspect? But it has always been so. They don’t wonder as to how a woman’s freedom in our country has been choked and strangled a thousand times over,so that the poor soul cannot make a move without a male’s permission, a male who’s only distinction is his genitals. To the degree that we see nothing weird about a twenty year old being reprimanded by her ten year old brother.

My guardian knows what’s best for me, seriously?!

They do not see anything strange in that the women of their country cannot make the smallest move without their guardian’s permission. They have no right to leave their houses, to study, to go to a clinic…without their guardian’s permission. And the guardian is a woman’s father, brother or any related male until she marries. And then her guardian becomes her husband until either one of them dies. Her guardian may marry her off at ten, hit her, abuse her or may be kind to her, it’s all up to luck. Her life like a watermelon, it might open up to be red and sweet or bitter and rotten.

These campaigners live like princesses and the restrictions that stifle average women daily, do not apply to them. Have they ever faced a PVPV  commission member who stole their very breath. If a PVPV commission member even set his eyes on them, he would shake from fear, because the only power that the PVPV recognize is the power of your guardian. These men know nothing of religion.

My guardian knows what’s best for me, seriously?!

They never wonder and they never question. Instead in a naiveness that is to be envied, naiveness reminiscent of Marie Antoinette, they are bothered by the demands of the women who have suffered. And so they send to the king, asking him that this system of injustice be maintained.

They say “Who said we need to be human?”
“We do not want rights that contradict our customs!”

“Stop their demands!”

“Cut their tongues!”

“Silence their voices!”

“Leave us as we are!”

“An object in a degree closer to the animal! (With all due respect to animals)”

And surprisingly, I am not surprised. Not surprised by the campaign.
And you know why?
Because the history of  movements demanding women’s rights throughout the world, was full of similar campaigns to this “My guardian knows what’s best for me”. For every woman who demanded her rights, stood more women who cursed her, in the name of tradition, in the name of customs, in the name of religion (whatever that religion may be), and shamed her for seeking change.
This campaign is not strange.
It is similar to another campaign carried out by women in Switzerland in the twenties and then again in the fifties and sixties against women’s right to vote. They too used religion, customs and traditions as an excuse to stop development.

Even in this, they are not unique.
People, as I said before are people,in their wisdom, and strength and in their weakness and simplicity.
Here or there. No difference.

But my guardian does not know what’s best for me.
I am worthy of making my own decisions.
And only I know what’s best for me, even as I bow my head in respect to my father.  

Those campaigners insist on staying minors.
That is their decision. But who said that they speak on behalf of Saudi women?

57 Comments

Filed under Child marriages, Culture, Gender Apartheid, Women campaigns

57 responses to ““My Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me”

  1. Jerry M

    Guardians may have made sense for the mostly uneducated women of a few generations ago, it also may have made sense when so much of Saudi Arabia’s population was nomadic and most travel was on foot. Today women travel in cars and carry cell phones. If I can accept what I read on Saudi blogs, modern Saudi women are as well educated as their brothers (or even more so).

    I read horror stories about women who cannot get permission to travel. My wife corresponds with a Saudi woman who is divorced and cannot get permission to travel from her father. Perhaps as on Saudi blogger Sabria Jawhar seems to say, reform is the solution. In any event there is a real problem. A Westerner like myself would say that abolition of the guardianship system is the only thing that will really stop the abuses.

    • new guy

      Just hilarious campaign by some spoilt brats which has serious implications for rest of the women the world over. This place will never change because these people never had to work and will never work till oil $$ continue to flow freely so all this money goes into funding useless causes and customs and create problems for other countries. I our culture as in world over, there have been famous women warriors as well as mothers, wives, and actresses and politicians. It is only due to countries like these and free oil money we are seeing a whole lot problems in the world.

  2. coffee and cigarettes

    yeah i remember studying margaret atwoods a handmaidens tale in school and getting told that she was inspired by a group of anti-feminist women calling themselves “women who want to be women” in the 70s-80s. basically they arose as a reaction to the feminists, and claimed that equal rights and opportunities were not “womanly.” whenever you campaign for change, you have people who will fiercely oppose it..its human nature. but progress always comes, and people like this always end up being on the wrong side of history. what saddens me is that these women must have such low self regard and self esteem to think this way.

  3. Hello, it’s my first time to comment here.

    Reading this somehow made me realize how lucky I am. I could safely say that we share the same religion but my father, who strictly insists that I wear my headscarf properly and pray five times a day has seldom ever been an obstacle to me and considers bodily punishment as harmful to females (“getting beaten up is for guys, not girls.”).

    I feel sorry for those females who want the status quo to remain. Maybe they’ve been too pampered, or maybe they’re unprepared to accept that women have rights too.

  4. I don’t know how could they speak in our behalf as you said. Not all Saudi women supporting this idea. And most of us aren’t satisfied with it. We aren’t making any progress by accepting and supporting this campaign which limits our freedom and rights in this life.
    Thanks alot..

  5. Is there any campaign for Saudi Women to make a choice between
    a) I want the guardianship system to remain as it is
    b) I do not want the guardianship to remain at all
    ?
    And BTW, what about the info below?
    http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/06/12/un-saudi-arabia-pledges-end-men-s-control-over-women
    here we read among others:
    “Saudi Arabia accepted a recommendation put forward by UN member states in February to take steps to end the system of male guardianship over women, to give full legal identity to Saudi women, and prohibit gender discrimination. The government also clarified that the Shari’a concept of male guardianship over women is not a legal requirement, and that “Islam guarantees a woman’s right to conduct her affairs and enjoy her legal capacity.””
    Is it a promise of change or diplomacy?

  6. My first response to this was – well of course there’s going to be a group like this in Saudi. My second was – OF COURSE there’s a group like this in Saudi! Seriously, thanks for bringing this mmm let’s say fringe group to our attention. It’s a great reminder of why progress is so slow here. For every one woman like you who demands change, there are two who demand that things stay the same.

    Great post – thanks!

  7. Annie

    Sigh. . . I would love to think that there existed someone outside of myself that knew what was best for me. Their certainly are lots of folks who like to give advice. In my 46 years, I discover over and over that I have to figure it out for myself.

  8. Maria Aini

    Assalamu alaikum,

    God knows best who stands behind these campaigns… perhaps men themselves, who pulling the strings of these kind of women and promote them. After all, all you have to do is to read some religious books written by Saudi women concerning women issues, and realize that, for some reason, there are women that interpret things in a way that would make a Muslim woman a prisoner. This kind of books are “convenient” and promoted by men, and moreover translated into different languages so they can be put on the shelves around the world. The same goes, probably for these type of compaigns.
    Today, a Muslim world is in a dark age, just like Christian Europe used to be once upon time. And one of the reason for this is that the governments don’t promote people to think and question certain things (i.e. traditions, customs that have nothing to do with religion). And if you dare to do so, then you would immediately be labeled as a heretic, or for some even, apostate. How can we talk about basic freedom for women, if the whole society spiritually and intellectually paralyzed?

    • Linnea Johnson

      I am an American woman and have no idea what you ladies go through in your daily lives. however, I am appalled and feel compassion. So many men I know are jokes! Much more immature than many women. We all know we women do mature faster than boys/men do. My son is 22. I can’t imagine having to take direction from him. He can not take care of himself. By the way, who takes care of your families Saudi women? You do! You deserve respect and freedom. Bless you.

      Linnea Johnson

  9. It’s so sad that Saudi women are treated like children while the rest of the world’s women are free to make decisions for themselves – just like men. What makes Saudi women incapable of making decisions about their own lives, about what they want to do or where they want to go? The only obstacle standing in their way is MEN!Saudi women are smart and educated. I don’t understand why more of them don’t want more for themselves and their daughters.
    Great post, Eman – thanks for translating Dr. Manea’s article!

  10. hafsa

    the princesses arent even subjected to the laws that the commen women are, theres a separate set of laws for the royal family. they dont even know what its like to live in that status qou!

  11. hafsa

    oh wait – i commented before i read Dr. Elham Manea’s article. she said the same thing that i said in my previous comment.

  12. ok so how ironic is this really.. think about it. A campaign that is suggesting that Saudi women remain under the guardianship system which doesn’t allow them freedom to choose is actually asking Saudi women to use their freedom of choice and sign for their individual support of it.

  13. This very night, my sister-in-law, a Jordanian dentist working in Abha, Saudi Arabia, is sitting in a room filled with woman in the Jeddah airport. She is falying back to Amman to spend Eid her family.

    Like the rest of the women there, she is segragated, cut-off from nearly all the facilties, unable to go to the restuarant to eat, unable to buy or even have a cigarette, cast away like like some sort of dirty secret. Her six hour layover will be spent in what feels to her a prison like environment.

    She hates travelling in Saudi for this reason and her quick Palestinian tongue has nearly gotten her into trouble a few times, as she has told off the police in frustration on occasion. All this becuase she is travelling alone, without a “guardian.” And I suppose becasue after 8 years of studies, she cant make a decent living in the wretched economy that is Amman. As an unmarried expat, life is hard for her in Saudi Arabia, with no guardian there to allow her to simply be….

  14. Chiara

    Great post, and thanks for the translation!

    Coffee and cigarettes–those women Margaret Atwood was referring to called themselves “Real Women” as in women who want to get married and have babies, not the unshaven lesbians who want to work that they portrayed the “feminists” to be. They claimed to be part of the feminist movement, fighting to allow mothers to choose to stay home. Needless to say they were supported by the right wing of the government, and the idea of women choosing to do something else was curtailled. This in an era when a Conservative Prime Minister had major problems with his own political party because his wife was –gasp–a lawyer, and GASP–kept her own last name.

    Maria Aini (great name!)–I do wonder who is financing and supporting these women’s groups, although I am fully aware that there are women in every culture who truly believe this–no problem as long as it is their choice, and they leave others free to choose differently, without being labelled as lesser, or non-women.

    Nzingha–great sense of irony!

    David Anthony Hohol–yes a dentist can be trusted to perform surgery, but not to mingle freely in society, and make her way home in a mixed airport. The argument of course would be that she may be trustworthy but not the rest of society. Ultimately the segregated system speaks as poorly of the supposed behaviour of men as of women.

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  17. Tamador

    My jaw dropped as I read the name of the campaign! lol
    I wonder what the reaction would be like if a campaign like this happened here in Jeddah! It wouldn’t survive a single day, they would be inviting war!
    I second your opinion. Very nice post.. you Go girl!

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  19. Sparky

    LMFAO…What a campaign? With all that money they have and they couldn’t come up with something better!

    I wish those princesses would poor (oops I mean pour…nah I don’t wish them poor) some of their dough in places where it really needs it, like perhaps women’s shelters!

    Women who have suffered under a system of “My guardian knows what is best for me”

    and that cutting tongues quote is from whom???
    Such VIOLENT CAMPAIGNING!!!

  20. Hi Eman,

    They could even think for women, I thanked God a lot, when the people who established this, had a big fight and separated.

  21. Kris

    Coralbead – we can never take our rights for granted.

    People think that once gained, the job is finished – that rights won can never be lost.

    The slow erosion happens everytime there is a tension between religious rights and women’s rights.

  22. Tulsi

    I agree.

    You are your own guardian.
    Only you know what’s best for you.

    I know this is a random comment, but I’m currently researching your blog and writing a paper on your perspectives about your own Arabic culture. I’ll try to do my best.

  23. Abu Rumaisa

    While the concept of guardianship is over imposed in Saudia, there are times when it’s required by Islam too. There has to be a balance. A guardian is required during marriage but that doesn’t mean he should be unfair in turning down proposals or force a woman into a marriage. A guardian’s permission is needed when travelling, it’s not about whether they can or can’t handle themselves.. it’s about what Islam teaches us. If the restriction is being imposed unfairly again then it’s not allowed.

    When our lands were ruled with more justice, women still had these rules but again men were not allowed to abuse these rules. A woman could go to a judge when the restrictions were due to cruelty of the guardian rather than for her protection. But now our court systems are so ineffective that men abuse the guardianship system we have as they know they can get away with it.

    Allah (swt) knows what’s best for us & if the guardianship makes no sense to us then it’s ok as we are not all wise, only Allah is.

    Let’s look for a middle ground… going against deen to fight injustice is not worth it in the end.

  24. Sophie

    ‘Headed by two princesses’ – that says it all. In Victorian Britain, Queen Victoria was thoroughly opposed to women’s suffrage, believing that women should be happy to have the protection (ie control) of men over their lives. She was only capable of believeing this because she had no real idea of what that control meant in practice for ordinary women. Meanwhile, ordinary women were left to fight and even in one case die for their basic civil rights. How can these royal women be so blinkered?

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  27. Hmmm

    I suspect these Princesses created this site to curry favor with the men in their family. That they are fighting over credit for the idea makes this seem even more likely.

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  29. Somice

    Abu Rumaisa can you, or someone, please explain what it is that Islam teaches that requires that a woman seek her guardian’s permission to travel or to seek medical attention?
    I mean no disrespect, I am just trying to understand.

    • Alicia

      The medical attention part defies logic, but I suspect the part about travel is related to the very real danger a woman could face when traveling. The Quran states that men are to protect women. Read the last part of the Book of Judges in the Bible for a story that makes you not want to travel without (or maybe even with!) a guardian: a woman is raped and murdered by the Benjaminites (she is thrown to them by her guardian), so for revenge the other israelites kill all the Benjaminite women and children and vow not to give them any of their women as wives. Then they make up and regret their vow. But a deal is a deal. So to solve the problem they help the Benjaminites kidnap and rape a group of women from another village as they go out to celebrate a festival. Now, this is an old tale, but it speaks to the place of women where some men are concerned. Furthermore non-islamic men were harassing and attacking islamic women when Islam was formed. I have read that there were traditions of humiliating men from another tribe by kidnapping their women. I don’t know if it is true, but what we can see is a world that can be very hostile to women. Could we ever return to such a world? absolutely. and such conditions arise here and there (Some Biker bars in Detroit come to mind). We should also bear in mind that it is very difficult for women to stop men’s violence towards them without the help of just men. There should not be undue burdens placed on women, the guardian is there to protect her from actual threats. Neither should there be undue burdens on the man protecting the women, such a woman who puts herself in harms way. Of course, men tend to see threats differently than women and interpret protection differently as well. When women are not involved to help determine what a reasonable level of threat should be accepted you get an unnecessarily repressive system. Think about all the ways men could protect women without imprisoning them; they could educate each other not to mistreat women, they could pass laws not to mistreat women and they could enforce those laws. Granted this could mean some obligations on women: stay out of biker bars, no driving around alone in secluded areas late at night etc. , in other words if men have an obligation to protect, women have an obligation to behave in a reasonable manner. So, there can be a reasonable restriction of liberty in the interest of justice. In a perfect world!

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  31. Why is this separatist colorful!!!!!

    Iomyaten even called on them living as we live our watches

  32. Pingback: My Guardian Knows What’s Best For Me « my treasure

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  34. Mia

    It is shocking that the world does so little to help the women trapped in the world’s biggest prison. Religious states are the ugliest and least moral in the world. Women will have to fight for their rights, just as they have had to in other countries. In the meantime, women around the world should do more to help those in SA where we can. I felt sick watching tonight’s Newsnight report. How dare SA treat women so disgracefully.

  35. Mia

    It defies belief that WOMEN try to oppress other women by buying into the nonsensical notion of male guardianship. They should be ashamed of themselves. History will not be on their side. Thank heaven that I live in a country that respects my rights as a womn and a human being. My sincere sympathy for the women trapped by other people’s insane views. Human rights mean nothing to SA and similar countries. The west should not do busines with them until they treat women as human beings.

  36. Susanne

    A princess hungry for attention selling out other women. I recently read a book written by one of these princesses. She was driven around whenever she wanted in a luxury car with a gin and tonic in her hand. She travelled overseas several times a year first class to shop. S

  37. emma

    i never knew the extent to women’s suppression in Saudi and i almost feel guilty that i can please myself living in the UK.
    i can work, travel and be self-sufficent without any assistance from a man.
    my partner is protective of me in a caring way but would never, ever stop me from doing anything like driving.
    i have just finished watching a documentary by the BBC and am astounded about lingerie assistants being male and when the reporter asked who would be measuring her, he said that he would be.
    it seems a little two faced that a man can touch such an area of a woman that isn’t his wife.
    i hope that there is some sort of reform in the future.

  38. SapperK9

    “…bow my head in respect to my father…” That is not respect, its humiliation. Respect is earned. When this “father” celebrates his daughter for her own self and what she has achieved, just by surviving him and his regime, that’s a beginning…

  39. Asim Shaikh

    How can some one know what is right for you and what is wrong for you , a male can not understand how does a female feel and what are her desires so how can he make decisions for you … !!

    Supporting this you are only showing your consent being as a weak person, Please at least do not do it in the name or religion.

  40. Asim Shaikh

    Its the women itself who have to stand up against all the odds as it has not changed in thousands of years and it won’t if we simply rely on others to help.

    It has to be the women who have to stand against it and not worry or scared about the consequences of that , its better to die asking for freedom rather than dying in a cage.

    At least one would be satisfied that they tried to breathe free. Use Internet to revolutionize your own world. God only helps those who help themselves.

  41. madiha

    i don;t know where these supposed tortured saudi women are,but going through daily humiliation?? seriously? you people really know how to make a mountain of a mole hill-maybe one or two women created this uproar cuz they had some silly fight with their husband or friend-instead of telling people that theyre being tortured-why not ask them if they are?i myself am a saudi woman,i have absolutely no complaints and i like my life the way it is thank you very much. i have the freedom to work,my husband does not control me,nor does he humiliate (???) me in any way shape or form on a daily basis!i have the freedom to travel if i wish and see my friends or study-i have absolutely no restrictions what so ever. you people need to get your facts right before you go wagging a finger where it doesn;t belong.pay attention to your own actions before you fabricate facts about others.

  42. Mia

    Just because one Saudi woman has no complaints with a system that most decent people would find oppressive and offensive doesn’t mean that she has the right to oppress others. What is truly sad about the Saudi regime is that it traps men and women in religious dogma and allows them no option of choosing for themselves.

    I have a wonderful man who supports me and loves me. He does so in a society which gives us equal rights under a true democracy. Women in the UK have had to fight for this. Men in the UK has to fight for democracy too Saudi women – get organised and start seeking freedom in a peaceful and meaningful way. Men should too!

    Reading a woman lecture others on freedom – when she can’t even drive a car or dress as she pleases in public is risible and downright disingenious. Until ALL women in SA have the right to choose – others will always question if the choice is a free one.

    Bleating on about how some like the system MEANS NOTHING when you have no choice. Let people choose without unishment or religious oppresion and let’s see what happens.

    Good luck to every Saudi woman who wants democracy and basic human rights.

  43. Anne Jones

    Wake up Saudi women and break free from the prison bars. God help women in SA . When men have no democratic rights it is always more difficult for to help women.

  44. Jerry M

    Human beings are adaptable. My grandfather, born in 1861 in the US, probably lived in conditions I would find intolerable. So, I would assume many, perhaps most, Saudi woman are able to thrive within the restrictions that are place upon them. That doesn’t make it good.

  45. anya

    Everyone should be protected from the evil that can be done to them, men and women alike. It should be the men that have the guardians. They are the ones that attack/rape/beat women. Why should women have their freedom taken away from them, because the men can not control themselves and have respect for women or themselves. Only in a mans world does this make sense!
    Women should have the same rights as men, if they wish to be in a bikers bar, then it should be their choice and right. They should have the right to feel safe where ever they wish live/work/socialise.
    All men are not the same, the same as all woman are not the same. There is good and bad in all sex/race/creed. A whole group should not be punished because of the crimes of the other. The ones commiting the crimes should only be the ones to be punished. Where is the Deterrence for these men to treat women with the respect and love they are due?

    If the Princesses and their rich friends were to be transported into the life of a everyday woman they would be screaming for change.

    Thank for bring this to the atttention of the world and standing up againist it. I will continue to read your blog with intresxt and love in my heart.

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  47. People who are not victims of unjust laws always support those laws. This is not new. The majority of White Americans supported segregation. Let me tell you this story: In California, in late 90s, there was a proposition “Three Strikes You are Out”. White voters overwhelmingly supported the prop. Why? Because for whites the stereotype habitual, unreformable criminal is a black man. The prop became law. And BOTH blacks and whites were being carted off to jail for minor infractions. Well now you had THE SAME white people who supported the law coming out and saying “Three Strikes” is an unjust law. Like has been pointed out by the intelligent doctor and many commentators here, these princesses don’t live under the unjust law they want to promote.

  48. CalypsoSummer

    “My Guardian Knows What’s Best For Me.” “i have absolutely no complaints and i like my life the way it is thank you very much.” Yes, it can be it difficult to grow up and take adult responsibility for oneself and one’s actions. Some people don’t want to have to take the trouble. They prefer to remain childish all their lives. And if they prefer it and if circumstances allow, I hope they can remain comfortably helpless and controlled and confined until the day they die. Me, I refuse that. I am an independent, intelligent, educated woman. I support myself, I own my own home, I own a car, I worship God, and I have a gentleman friend who enjoys my company. We are not yet married and I am in no hurry to do so. And I strongly hope and pray that the intelligent Saudi women who want to be able to control their own lives will be able to do so soon. It will be a struggle – it will be an uphill climb. But we got there. You can, too.

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  51. Maria

    I`m a woman and mother of two children, a boy and a girl.

    I`m a lawyer working in a Office in Portugal.

    I used to travel a lot around the world in my holidays.

    Last years i went to some countries in the árabe world and Ásia.

    I was impressed about the way women are treated by men in those countries.

    They don`t have any rights: in case of divorce or husbands death they lose everything.

    Also during mariage cases of women maltreatment or underage girls abuse.

    Polygamy and underage mariage should end immediately.

    Men can not continue, base on 7th century society and religion rules, keep women indoors with no rights to work, driving a car, vote, have political rights, open a business, shopping or travelling without male permition.

    Women also should try to change things, starting at home teaching the boys thinking in a different way and convence their daughters studying hard and working in order to be independent.

    International organizations must go to Arábe countries doing campaigns teaching women how to change things in order to be treated equal as men. Women can not just sit and wait. Men wil try to keep the status quo. They have no complains. Its a women issue. They have a voice in the society matters and should start using it, at home with their hunband, children, social media, schools…

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