In a significant initiative to promote women’s rights and empowerment in the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia recently hosted the “International Conference on Women in Islam: Status and Empowerment” in Jeddah. Under the patronage of King Salman, the three-day conference, organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), aimed to highlight the successes and contributions of Muslim women while countering negative stereotypes that portray Islam as an obstacle to women’s rights. The conference brought together leaders, diplomats, and experts from various Islamic nations to discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by Muslim women.
Palestinian Women’s Plight The conference began by addressing the pressing issue of Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip. Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan highlighted the challenging circumstances faced by Palestinian women in the midst of ongoing Israeli violations of international laws and humanitarian principles. The minister expressed the Kingdom’s condemnation of the violations and illegal practices against Palestinian women and praised their pivotal role and sacrifices in pursuit of justice for their cause.
Protecting Women’s Rights Prince Faisal emphasized that Muslim women often face harassment and discrimination in some countries due to restrictive legislations that limit their rights, especially concerning the wearing of the hijab. These practices, fueled by Islamophobia, run counter to international conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979. The conference stressed the importance of addressing such challenges and promoting women’s rights within the framework of Islamic values.
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030
Empowering Women The foreign minister praised Saudi Arabia’s rapid progress in empowering women, aligning with the ambitious Vision 2030 initiative. Women’s participation in the workforce increased from 19.3 percent in 2016 to 37 percent, and they now own 45 percent of small and medium-sized enterprises. Leadership positions held by women also saw a significant rise, increasing from 17 percent to 39 percent. These accomplishments underscore Saudi Arabia’s commitment to women’s empowerment and their indispensable role in the country’s development.
A Landmark Achievement One of the most significant outcomes of the conference was the unveiling of “The Jeddah Document for Women in Islam.” This comprehensive document serves as a legal, legislative, and intellectual reference, with the aim of empowering women in Islamic societies. The document covers the rights of women in Islam, providing a roadmap for legislative reforms and initiatives to enhance women’s participation in economic, educational, and social spheres.
OIC’s Commitment to Empowerment
Hissein Brahim Taha, the Secretary-General of the OIC, reaffirmed the organization’s dedication to promoting the rights and empowerment of Muslim women. The OIC Program of Action for the Advancement of Women was acknowledged as a roadmap for progress in Muslim societies. The conference highlighted the need for constructive dialogue to empower Afghan women and ensure their access to education and participation in public life.
International Voices on Women’s Empowerment
The conference featured speeches from international leaders, including the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wazed. She emphasized that Islam is a religion of mercy, humanity, and harmony and acknowledged Saudi Arabia’s initiatives to increase women’s participation. Wazed also highlighted Bangladesh’s efforts to uphold women’s rights and representation in the political landscape. Her call for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and the end of the Israeli occupation underscored the conference’s commitment to addressing urgent global issues.
A Model for Islamic Nations The President of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, Hala Al-Tuwaijri, praised the support for women in Saudi Arabia by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. She detailed the various reforms that have led to significant increases in female participation in the labor market, women’s economic participation, and women’s representation in various sectors, including the judiciary, security, and the military. Al-Tuwaijri’s remarks showcased Saudi Arabia as a model for Islamic nations in advancing women’s rights.