Yes, still today in Saudi Arabia, women are banned from driving, traveling abroad, marrying, renting an apartment, study abroad without permission from a male guardian. A woman’s father, husband, brother, son is her guardian. Women in Saudi Arabia are subjected to an oppressive male guardianship system and still live on the unfortunate side of gender segregation. Women have to fight there every day for their existence.
Even if Saudi Arabia agreed to end male guardianship in 2013 and some reforms eased some restrictions on women’s ability to work, the system remained intact. Ms. Saffaa, a Sydney-based Saudi Artist, and cultural activist, (False name to protect her identity) has tackled gender politics and celebrated female activism in Saudi Arabia with arts exhibition and campaign. She currently works with other artists on a mural in Melbourne connected to an activist campaign on the net with others women living in Saudi Arabia. She represents on his painting women wearing the Shemagh, the headdress traditionally worn by Saudi Men with a banner reading “I am my own guardian.”
The #IAmMyOwnGuardian movement on social medias
The action originally debuted in 2012 even if it has garnered a lot of interest lately. When Ms. Saffaa was doing his Honors degree at the University of Sydney, sponsored by the Saudi Arabian government, she had to prove that his male guardian was living with her. She found it humiliating and decided to create the movement inspired by Kristine Beckerle, the person who wrote the Human Rights Watch report on Saudi Arabia. Ms Saffaa is acting in Australia but the action is managed by Saudi women living inside Saudi Arabia, tweeting from inside Saudi Arabia, risking their livelihood and safety to get their voices heard.
Ms. Saffaa’s hopes are to see one day the male guardianship laws abolished in Saudi Arabia, and she wants women to realize that these are not Islamic laws: these are man-made laws. The international solidarity is more than never important because it shifted the international attention to the real issue and highlighted how women in Saudi Arabia have self-determination.