Lama Al Suleiman and Nashwa Taher
Two Saudi businesswomen swept to an unprecedented victory in elections to the board of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday in the first polls in which women stood as candidates in the conservative Muslim kingdom.
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Suleiman and fellow female winner Nashwa Taher ran on a list of heavyweight business people and industrialists that clinched the 12 board seats up for grabs, according to results released early on Wednesday.
With only 100 women among the some 3,880 chamber members who cast ballots, the pair's victory was effectively handed by men.
"We should give them [women] a chance because they have little representation in society," one male voter said on Tuesday, adding that he had voted for four women.
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Seventeen women were among the 71 candidates in the elections that took place from Saturday through Tuesday. Businesswomen cast their ballots on the first two days and businessmen on the following days, in line with traditions whereby Saudi women do not mix in public with men other than relatives.
Some 21,000 members of the Jeddah chamber, or about half the total membership, were eligible to take part in the polls, but election officials said that both the turnout and the number of candidates were a record in the chamber's 60-year history.
Suleiman admitted that she partly owed her victory to having run on a strong list, but she said that it was also due to the fact that "a lot of people wanted to encourage women".
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one businesswoman, who asked not to be named, said that she did not think that US pressure for reform was helping Saudi women.
"In fact, it may be delaying progress ... We are moving forward in our own, low-profile way," she said.
Labels: Saudi Arabia