The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is apparently firming up plans to build a women-only city as an attempt to shore up employment rates among the Saudi women. But the question that begs serious concern is if such cities will continue to alienate women from the mainstream and make more dependent on the system rather than rendering them self-sufficient.
In a column published in The Guardian, Homa Khaleeli wonders how such segregation can be expected to solve discrimination problems. Reportedly, Saudi businesswomen are expected to have male representatives to deal with government agencies, and with high pressure on employers to provide separate offices for women, men are preferred as employees.
With all due respect to the Saudi culture that inherently advocates segregation, the new move, though welcome to boost employment rates initially, does not actually address the bigger issues.
Though Saudi Arabia may attempt to undo a few mistakes for which it has received harsh criticism, including forbidding women from driving, traveling alone, or attending a mosque that does not have a female prayer section, the latest move is bound make women disappear further from the public realm, Khaleeli reiterates.
The announcement is definitely a welcome move but probably it should also take into consideration that it may spawn wider disparity in the society, wherein women may end up richer than men. The results may be akin to South and North Korea divide with women zone appearing more evolved as "sleeker, shinier way into the 21st century," states another Guardian post by Zoe Williams.
Zoe Williams goes on to wonder if the current move is an open invitation to women to better men, as they were once barred from working despite being well-qualified. Suddenly, unleashing women into economic productivity is definitely bound to make them financially independent, but at what cost?
Zoe draws parallel with the Luton-based Slug and Lettuce pub of the 90s that deliberately seemed to appeal to the fair drinker. And Lo! Suddenly, that is where all the men wanted to drink. Zoe goes on to add that Hofuf is playing out like a giant Slug and Lettuce sans the booze and Doritos of course, with men knocking on the doors even while continuing to feign preference for their own locale.