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How Nightgowns are Changing the Future for Saudi Women

February 1, 2012 3 minute Read by Charity Wallace

Saudi Arabia’s women have reason to celebrate - they have been given the opportunity to work within the Kingdom by decree of the King.  Last summer, King Abdullah decreed that women have the right to work in stores that provide products specifically designed for women, such as lingerie and cosmetics.   Nightgowns and bras are becoming Saudi women’s banner of progress. King Abdullah has tried to steer his extremely conservative countrymen toward promoting greater freedom and opportunity for women.  The King should be commended for his recent decisions to allow women the right to vote, work and learn alongside men.  The King has established the first co-ed university in Saudi Arabia, in which women and men study side-by-side.  At the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), women are receiving degrees in engineering, science and other technical fields.  Behind the walls of KAUST women are allowed to drive on campus and are not required to wear veils.  However, when women leave the campus the veils go back on, not only covering their bodies but suppressing their opportunity to participate fully in society, simply because they are women. With the enforcement by the Ministry of Labor, women are benefiting from the King’s decree.  A highly educated populous of women finally has the chance to use their skills.  When given the opportunity to apply for a job, more than 28,000 women responded.  The surprisingly large number of applications highlights Saudi women’s desire to contribute to society and use their degrees and knowledge outside the home. A critical issue for Saudi Arabia is how to manage the growing frustration of women who are well educated, but lack the opportunity to use their skills.  The decree is the first step in addressing this problem.  While more needs to be done for women’s progress in Saudi Arabia, the King’s actions give reason for optimism. For more on this development see Thomas W. Lippman’s article Saudi Women Shatter the Lingerie Ceiling” 

This post written by Charity Wallace, Director of the Women's Initiative  at the George W. Bush Institute.  


Author

Charity Wallace
Charity Wallace

Charity N. Wallace serves as the Senior Advisor to the Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute and is in an executive graduate program in pursuit of a Global Master of Arts degree in international relations from The Fletcher School at Tufts University. Most recently, Ms. Wallace served as the Vice President of the Global Women’s Initiatives and Senior Advisor to Mrs. Laura Bush. In this role, Ms. Wallace was responsible for setting the vision and managing the policy engagement for the women’s initiatives, including Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon global health initiative, empowering women in the Middle East and working with First Ladies from around the world. The Women's Initiative aims to improve access to education, health care, and economic opportunity for women and children in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

From February 2009 through September 2010, Wallace served as the Chief of Staff to Mrs. Laura Bush.  Wallace oversaw Mrs. Bush’s initiatives - from her wide ranging policy agenda to her the publishing and promotion of Mrs. Bush’s bestselling book, Spoken from the Heart. Wallace served in the Bush Administration from January 2001 to January 2009.  During her tenure in the administration, she served as Deputy Chief of Protocol of the United States (2007-2009), Director of Advance for First Lady Laura Bush (2004-2007), and worked in public liaison positions in Presidential Advance, the U.S. Department of Education, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and USA Freedom Corps. During her tenure in the Bush Administration and in her current role, Wallace has traveled to 70 countries.

Ms. Wallace serves on the Board of Advisors for the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, the Advisory Board of ARZU Studio Hope, the Advisory Board of 4word Women and the Advisory Board of All In Together, an bi-partisan organization that promotes women’s engagement in political and civic life.  Ms. Wallace is an ex-officio member on the Human Freedom Advisory Council for the Bush Institute.  Ms. Wallace wrote the foreword for the book Work, Love, Pray, which was released in 2011. A native of California, Ms. Wallace graduated magna cum laude from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, with a focus in international relations. 

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