Now, what about the older generation – how do they perceive life was 10 to 15 years back, and how does it compare nowadays. Our research shows the following.
10 to 15 years ago females had to struggle hard to finish their education. The father and the eldest brother often refused to let a girl finish her education. Their logic was that they believed marriage was the destiny of women and so they didn’t need to waste time with education. In such cases the subject was often not even open to discussion and certainly the woman concerned did not dare to stand in front of her father or brother to object or express an opinion.
The lack of ultimate job opportunities – except for teaching – was one factor which discouraged women and deterred them from having ambitions and dreams about a career.
Relationships between mothers and their children were also often not close or intimate. A daughter often could not even tell her mother what was going on in her mind. And even if she had that privilege, it would take an exceptional mother to have the courage to stand up for her daughter on such an issue.
The home environment was conservative or formal and this extended to fashion. Even at home a girl was rarely allowed to wear anything apart from a loose fitting long gown, certainly not figure-revealing trousers.
As marriage was considered the ultimate aim, girls were brought up to be always concerned about that ambition. As soon as a girl turned 16 the family would start to look at prospective husbands. Once a marriage proposal was forthcoming, the girl was informed and she would be expected to accept without seeing or talking to the man. She was not allowed to see him – and neither was he allowed to see her. Although in some cases undoubtedly the girl would get to see a photo of her groom, in theory the first time either had the chance to see each other was on the day of ‘Melka” (the marriage contract). On that day the bride saw her husband for the first time ; and the next time would be on the wedding day itself.
They could only start to know each other after marriage. Usually the bride moved in with the husband’s family. She was expected to help her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law with the household chores. It would be unacceptable to either the mother-in-law, or her husband, if she refused.
So the conservative relationship with parents and eldest brothers, the limited education, and the future that she could see ahead of her, all combined to prevent a girl from thinking about herself and allowing herself some selfish ambitions and dreams. She knew that she wouldn’t be able to fulfill those ambitions, so why dream. She accepted her fate as a woman and concentrated her energy, thoughts and ambitions on her family. Her aim was to raise her children, please her husband and, a cherished dream for many in those days, hope eventually to move to a separate house with her children away from the husband’s family. That was the ultimate any would hope for realistically.
What about now? Have there been any changes? In fact yes. There are a great many changes happening to that stereotype of days now largely gone bye.
The first change that took place gradually was in the marriage procedures themselves. Now some families allow the groom to see the bride once at her home : they call this “ El Nazra Al Sharia” i.e. “ allowed first look”. However, the couple is still not allowed to meet or go out until “the Melka ” or marriage contract. And in some families they are still not allowed to go out, but the groom is permitted to come and visit the bride at home from time to time, always providing that the bride’s parents will be present during these visits. This allows the couple to see each other often and get to know each other a bit before the marriage.
Parents’ relationships with their children have also changed. Parents nowadays try to be more understanding, closer to their children. With all the new technology, media and temptations, they accept that they need to know what is going on in the children’s minds ; they want to know their children’s ambitions, dreams and aspirations and to try to help them achieve those.
Girls nowadays expect to have the right to decide whether they would like to finish their education or not. In fact nowadays in some families the parents, and especially the father, is the one who pushes and encourages a daughter to finish her education. In some families they are even willing to let them even travel abroad to finish their university education. Amazing indeed by previous times of not so long ago.
Jobs outside teaching nowadays are not so restricted to males only. More and more of some of the biggest companies in Saudi now have vacancies reserved for women as they accept that women are right for certain jobs.
So what triggered these changes? Perhaps the start can be traced to the Kuwait/Iraq Gulf war. The Americans brought women soldiers with them ;and the Kuwaiti women played a definite role in the resistance to Saddam’s invaders.
Afterwards, more foreign investment came into the country. International banks were permitted, more foreign trading opportunities were encouraged by the government. The new satellite TV stations and the internet also had a great impact, specially on the younger generation. They became acquainted with the latest fashions, brands and even lifestyles, not just in the West but in the rest of the Arab world. Satellite TV quickly became available to everyone who wanted it despite attempts to prevent it. Instead of the two local channels suddenly Saudis were watching more than 30 international channels. For the first time they were aware of all that was happening around the world, at the same time it was happening.
So the even the older generation started to have different views on life. Perhaps they felt that something was missing from their lives.
More of their hopes and aspirations have turned towards their children. They want them to achieve what they couldn’t achieve in their days. They want to give them what they didn’t have. They have become more questioning of traditions in society and what are nowadays acceptable personal aspirations and ambitions.
The change has started – the question is where will it end ?
Wednesday, March 22- 2006 @ 16:45 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.