COMMUNITY ACTIVIST AND DEFENDER OF RIGHTS
Noha Barradah is in her second year of medical school at Taibah University. She lives between Medina and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, and for the last few months, she has mustered up the courage to join other Saudi women in the #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen campaign.
The social media campaign is perhaps the biggest social movement in Saudi history and its petition has garnered more than 14,600 signatures from women just like Noha, who are tired of living under complete control of their guardians and have called on the Royal Court and King Salman bin Abdulaziz to secure all women the status of full and equal citizens under Saudi Arabian law.
As we've discussed in this article, women living under the male guardianship system are bound to the authority of a male relative, who has the right to make any critical decisions on the woman’s behalf. For Noha and her fellow activists, this denial of basic human rights makes living everyday a sad and heartbreaking ordeal:
“I have been banned to do almost everything I wanted. It changes the whole way of how I view things. Every day I have to go through something that reminds me that a Saudi woman is not getting nearly what she deserves. For example, I can't have a walk in my neighbourhood because a woman is not allowed to and if she does, there is a huge chance that men in the streets will cause her troubles and give her uncomfortable looks like she has committed a serious crime. Also, a woman in Saudi can't drive. I can't travel or go on any trips even if it is educational because I do not have a passport. I cannot get a new passport because women in Saudi aren't allowed to. On the other hand, males as soon as they reach 21 they can have their own passports without having to ask a guardian.”
At significant risk, Noha continues to fight the system in any way she can. In addition to signing the #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen campaign, she talks to women in her community, especially to those who have never heard of gender equality, and tries to explain that they deserve better than the complete lack of freedom they have now. Although the situation is difficult, she is driven by the strength of Saudi women:
“I am a proud feminist and I have so many ideas to be accomplished about feminism and activism but for now, I try to help the society around me and specially females by empowering them and letting them know their rights.
Saudi women have been treated by the Saudi society as if they are less than men for so long. Many of them don’t know how to ask for what it is theirs. On the other hand, being raised in these strict conditions has made so many of them strong, and they have proven that they are capable of anything they want to do and are not less than others. At the end of the day we are all humans.”
The #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen campaign is a valuable step to achieving a just and equal future for every Saudi woman and girl – an ideal that is neither remarkable or unusual, but one that speaks to the most basic of human rights:
“I want women and men to have equal rights in everything. I want to be able to walk and talk without feeling uncomfortable and without getting looks. I do not want to see women being objectified in any form, not in real life, not online, nothing. I want to see women being empowered and see strength in their eyes, I want to see them asking for their rights with no shame. I am dying to start seeing young girls loving themselves and not care so much if they're liked by anyone and specially by boys. I want the society to stop placing so much pressure on girls by always making them feel that they are not enough. I need women to work together in order to get the best results in this revolution. I am here for liberty. I have seen my biggest dreams taken from me because of this matter and I will not be silenced by fear. Not anymore.”