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27 February 2011

Saudi Arabia give vote to women

Despite slow progress, the government of Saudi Arabia has given women in the country a right to vote, join unelected parliament and stand in local elections.

The King of Saudi Arabia had long been pushing for changes and campaigners say they are pleased that the decision has finally been announced, although many want more to be done for women's rights in the country.

Speaking to Reuters news agency, Saudi writer Nimah Ismail Nawwab said: "Now it is time to remove other barriers like not allowing women to drive cars and not being able to function, to live a normal life without male guardians."

The landmark voting decision was reported in The Guardian and means that women will be able to officially vote in the next elections in four years' time. The paper also reported however that many also caution against the decision being acted on when the elections happen in 2015.

The Telegraph reported that it will be the growing numbers of educated women that will determine the future of the country, and not the fact they have given the vote. However, despite women making up nearly 60 per cent of university students in the country, only five to15 per cent work.

Emily Buchanan, BBC world affairs correspondent, reported that the move did signify a big step towards political reform for the country overall.

The education of women and steps to make it more accessible for females in developing parts of Africa and Asia was also tackled by the government last week.

Nick Clegg announced The Girls Education Challenge that will mean 650,000 girls will have six years of primary education or one million older girls a junior education for three years with funding of £350m. 

The international development secretary Andrew Mitchell also announced funds to prevent the deaths of 7,000 pregnant women in South Africa and Uganda. The World Bank published recently published reports that showed that there was a higher death rate for girls and women in developing countries.  

Christian Aid director Loretta Minghella welcomed the initiatives, saying:

"Continued gender discrimination is the most prevalent inequality of our time. More than 70 per cent of today's poor are women and girls. Strong measures to combat such an iniquitous situation are hugely welcome. "