Saudi women get out -- and get -- the vote

In a conservative kingdom, the first females elected to, well, anything.

Published November 30, 2005 4:24PM (EST)

All of a sudden, wondering "whether America's ready for a woman president" seems like a luxury. UPI today reports that two women have won seats on the board of directors of the Chamber of Commerce and industry in the city of Jeddah, thus becoming the first women to win any elected positions in Saudi Arabia. This is not a country where politicians court soccer moms: The election was also among the first in which women were allowed to vote. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the election was "viewed as a breakthrough in this conservative kingdom where women are not allowed to drive and can't work or travel without permission from a male guardian."

The Monitor explains that the 17 female candidates used their campaign as an opportunity to educate women about elections themselves. At one presentation, the winners-to-be, Nashwa Taher and Lama al-Sulaiman, had "urged the women present to vote for them and, more importantly, to urge their menfolk to vote for them as well." Interestingly, the latter strategy seems to have worked best. Only about 100 out of 2,800 eligible female voters are said to have showed up at the polls.

Looks like Saudi suffrage may take some getting used to. Or that it may take more than a chamber of commerce election to get out the female vote. Or that the other 2,700 women needed a ride.

In any case, Karen Hughes, don't you dare take credit for any of this.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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