Saudi Arabia Opens World’s Largest University for Women

Saudi Arabia has opened the world’s largest university for women, the Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University. The new university is located on the outskirts of the Saudi capital of Riyadh and has the capacity for 55,000 students to study subjects including business and science. It also has its own teaching hospital, laboratories and libraries.

All very good but, as the Guardian observes, how many of those women who graduate will actually be able to work and use the skills they’ve learned, given that Saudi Arabia has the world’ strictest sex-segregation rules? Currently women, many of whom are well-educated, comprise only 15% of the workforce. The 2010 World Economic Forum global gender gap report in 2010 ranked Saudi Arabia 129 out of 134 countries and gave the country a zero for female political empowerment.

Currently women cannot vote and must live under the control of a male guardian, usually a father or husband. They cannot get a job, travel or open a bank account with their guardian’s authority. They also cannot leave the house unattended or without wearing the niqab and cannot drive.

The Guardian quotes Nadya Khalife, from Human Rights Watch, about the new Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University:

“Ensuring women’s rights in Saudi Arabia is not about opening larger universities, it’s really about ensuring that women are allowed to study all fields and to be able to find future employment in these fields,” says Khalife. “The way in which Saudi Arabia segregates men and women in employment makes it very difficult for women to enter certain jobs. The Saudi government made promises, for instance, about ensuring that female lawyers, who are allowed to work only in administrative jobs, take up court cases, but there still has been no decision. While the opening of a large university is an indication of Saudi’s interest in educating women, it has to do much more to lift restriction on women’s employment.”

Two weeks ago, 32-year-old Manal al-Sharif, challenged the ban on women driving by videotaping herself driving and calling, via Facebook and other social media sites, for a “mass drive” of women on June 17th. An information technology specialist with the state-run oil company Aramco, Al-Sharif was arrested and imprisoned first for five days, and now for 10 more.

Al-Sharif is educated and used her knowledge of technology to start a protest, only to be immediately quashed down. But her driving a car and her call for a “mass drive” (the original page was taken down but there is a replica of the Facebook event page) — calls for Saudi women to have more freedoms that have been heard about the world — are examples of what can happen when women are, yes, educated. 


Please sign the petition to release Manal al-Sharif and this petition to end the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia.


Related Care2 Coverage

Manal al-Sharif Imprisoned For 10 More Days For Driving in Saudi Arabia


Photo by Emitron_68.


Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Shahad A.
Shahad A.6 years ago

Under the name of allah .
First thing to say that is your article is incorrect .
You just attaked saudi laws without knowing what is really going on which refers to your lack of professionalism and honesty towards Saudi , Women and Islam in the first place .
One exerpt I would love to wipe its gloom :
' Currently women cannot vote and must live under the control of a male guardian, usually a father or husband. They cannot get a job, travel or open a bank account with their guardian’s authority . '

1- we can vote . It's ashame when publicly lie !
2- instead of saying under control I would rather paraphrase it to say ( under the protection ) .
3- Most of saudi women are workers , teachers , doctors , bankers .. Any job will guarantee her safety and make sure that she is able to do it ( suits her . Not a dustperson or in night clubs, women are softer and weaker than doing man's jobs . Our religion saves my dignity )
4- we simply open banks account and have our own business with our national ID . It's not that complicated . We don't live in the sone age any longer .
What you have written is biased . You should be ashamed of yourself for judging a whole society on your own perspective not according to what you sow or experienced .
I wish you all a better life .
Saudi , proud to be , and muslim .

Wejdan Ali W.
Wejdan Ali W.6 years ago

so, this question for men ,, which one you prefer , to cut flower and you will be the first one who smell , or to take cut flower that every one touch and smell her !!!!

Wejdan Ali W.
Wejdan Ali W.6 years ago

Hi every one ,, I'm saudi girl and student at this university,,
I just want to explain to you the real situstion in saudi arabia as a saudi and muslim girl ..
first , wearing hijab (burka)
actually , women in saudi arabia like jewerly ,not any one can touch her, so we deal with her carefully, we cover her to protect her from men eyes, not any cover , black cover to make sure that her beauty is headen .. and no one see her beauty except her relatives .. I know that most of you asking WHY! .. OK if she is not covered , men will see her beatiful face or her body then he will date her then he will be her boy frind then he will make relationship with her then she will have kids from hem then then then .... all of this bad end habbend because of LOOK .. and this is a secret of covering women.. to be the creature that not any one can touch her ..
second driving cars..
in my country , saudi arabia , is not allowed for women to drive cars WHY ? .. because if she drive cars , maybe some one will take her from the car and will touch her , and we don't want any one touch her because she is some thing expensive .. so we give her personal driver and good education .. she can do whatever she want with out any scare in her life because she is under the protection hands .. so saudi women is like flowers that not any one can smell her ...
in the end , Saudi Arabia is protect her beautiful ladies not eat their rights ! and if you try this life , I'm sure that you will feel so comfortabl

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B6 years ago

This is a good first step.

E. A.
E A6 years ago

Just when you thought you've heard it all..
WT_ ...? D.R.
Man, that was a whole lot of gibberish.

Gamal K.
Gamal K.6 years ago

'And now I suppose I will be insulted by the guy with the Ph.D. in insults: Gamal K.'...‘Was this a compliment from Helen K’

Helen K.
Helen K6 years ago

I am very glad for the women of Saudi Arabia and I hope that all of the hard core sciences are offered on the curriculum. I would not want the university to teach only courses pertaining to how-to-serve-men-better. If Chemistry is not offered from day one, then the government is up to something (Particularly organic chemistry - for it's oil based economy). It's hard enough to be a university educated female in America, I just can't imagine what it would be like in an Arab country. But it's a start and I am glad.

My other comment is on the explosive hatred this has sparked in the comments. Wow, women's struggles in Saudi Arabia are going to be unimaginably difficult if this sentiment is what they are up against. I didn't realize the hatred was so intense.

And now I suppose I will be insulted by the guy with the Ph.D. in insults: Gamal K.

Pamela D.
Pamela D6 years ago

Let them lift their veils and see the world. Release them from their man-made shrouds of every kind.

Loo Samantha
Loo sam6 years ago

all human beings have equal rights.