Saudi Arabia to build women-only city for female workers
A women-only city is being constructed in Saudi Arabia to allow women to work while adhering to the Kingdom’s strict gender segregation laws.
The city, to be built in the Eastern Province city of Hofuf, is set to be the first of several planned for the conservative kingdom.
The aim is to allow women to achieve greater financial independence and to play a more important role in the country’s development.
The developers, The Saudi Industrial Property Authority (Modon) expect it to open next year, creating about 5,000 jobs in textiles, pharmaceuticals and food-processing industries.
Modon said the Hofuf site was a suitable location given the “proximity to residential neighbourhoods to facilitate the movement of women to and from the workplace.”
Although Saudi law does not forbid women from working, a recent survey found that only around 15 percent of Saudi’s workforce is female despite the fact that nearly 60 percent of the country’s university students are female.
Women find it difficult to find work as they are often not allowed to be interviewed by a male boss and they are not allowed to drive or use their wages to pay for a driver.
Samar Fatany, a Saudi radio host and one of the Kingdom’s prominent female voices, says the all women city is a good thing for the country.
She told ABC News that although it seems like more segregation to outsiders it is empowerment in Saudis’ eyes.
“Their culture and environment won’t let them work any other way.
“It’s an opportunity to have an income, be financially independent. It’s an economic necessity.”
Last September King Abdullah announced that women would be able to vote in the 2015 local elections and in January a law was passed allowing Saudi women to be employed in lingerie and cosmetic shops.