Saudi Arabia appoints first female newspaper editor

Somayya Jabarti. Image via kompas.com

Somayya Jabarti. Image via kompas.com

Somayya Jabarti  has been appointed the editor of a national English language daily newspaper, the Saudi Gazette. It is the first time that a woman has held the position of newspaper editor, and such a public position of power. 

The outgoing editor of the paper, Khaled Almaeena said that Jabarti had earned her position through her work, not her gender. He did, however, agree, that the appointment was "historic."

"It was not a question of gender but of merit that decided and earned her this opportunity," Almaeena wrote in the paper’s Sunday edition.

Whatever the case, it's a big win for both Somayya Jabarti and women in Saudi Arabia. 

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The rights of women and girls in the country remain restricted. As Human Rights Watch reported in their 2013 report, "girls and women are forbidden from traveling, conducting official business, or undergoing certain medical procedures without permission from their male guardians."

The highly publicised campaigns for Saudi Arabian women to be given the right to drive have also spotlighted the treatment of women in the country. 

As the Guardian pointed out, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world in which women are banned from driving.

Amnesty said women in Saudi Arabia face "severe discrimination" in law and in practice.

For Jabarti, who previously held the position of deputy national editor at the paper, her appointment is a sign of change.

According to The Global Post, the participation of Saudi Arabian women in the workplace, despite the conservative kingdom remaining one of the worst places to be a woman, has almost doubled from 9 percent to 16 percent. Still a small percentage however, and as the New York Times, points out, women are segregated from the men in the work place.

Still, as Jabarti's appointment reflects, changes are happening. 

“There’s a crack that has been made in the glass ceiling. And I’m hoping it will be made into a door,” Jabarti told Al Arabiya News.

Her responsibility to the women of her country is one that she does not take lightly, telling Al Arabiya News,

“Being the first Saudi woman [newspaper editor] is going to be double the responsibility... One’s actions will reflect upon my fellow Saudi women".

“The success will not be complete unless I see my peers who are also Saudi women in the media, take other roles where they are decision makers.":

Congratulations Somayya Jabarti. 

Source: Al Arabiya News