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Abstract

This qualitative study was primarily concerned with Saudi women’s reactions to social change in the political sphere. It focused on their responses to decrees allowing women to vote in municipal elections for the first time, become candidates in such elections, and be nominated in the Shura Council by the King. Structured interviews of urban dwellers illustrated that changes, seen as opportunities, had been noted, but their impact had yet to be processed thoroughly. Attitudes towards political participation were positive and largely optimistic, but rarely seen as applying to the self. Competence, rather than gender, was seen as relevant to voters’ views of political candidates as well as of elected or appointed officials. Compared with older interviewees, young ones viewed the impact of women’s political participation, along with other social changes, as gradual, manageable, and merely one of the many articulations of the 2030 Vision, a strategic framework developed by KSA intended to reduce the country’s dependence on oil and diversify its economy. Both young and older interviewees, though, were reluctant to forecast its specific future impact. Actual political participation, in the form of either voting or running for office, was dismal. These results indicate that not only time is needed for top-down interventions to enter the social fabric of a nation and the minds of its people, but also the necessary conditions must exist that enable the genuine flourishing of human agency.

Note on the Author

Maura A. E. Pilotti is a cognitive psychologist whose research interests include learning and memory processes across the lifespan. Currently, her research focuses on the interrelations of memory, language, and emotion. She received her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology at the City University of New York (USA).

Eman Jehad Y Abdulhadi is a law student whose research interests encompass several aspects of the human condition, including cross-cultural cognition and human rights. She is currently completing her law degree at Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University.

Tahani Alwaleed Algouhi is a law student whose research interests include international law and human rights. She is currently completing her law degree at Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University.

Muamar Hasan Salameh is a law scholar whose current research includes human rights, Palestinian–Israeli conflict, international law, and constitutional law. He is the Director of the Center of Futuristic Studies at Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University. He received his Ph.D. in international law and human rights at the University of La Sapienza (Italy).

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