Saudi Arabia recently granted women their right to travel outside the country without the permission of a male guardian, but those who want to live and study abroad are still forced to take a mahram (male guardian) with them.
However, it looks like this rule might also be axed soon. Earlier this week, the Saudi Cultural Attache in Washington, Mohammed Al-Issa, hinted at this possibility in a statement to local press.
"We may soon receive instructions from the Ministry of Education to cancel the condition of a male mahram for Saudi female students wishing to study abroad," the official said.
Al-Issa added that his office will not act on the matter before receiving direct instructions from the ministry to "exempt female students from this pre-requisite."
However, he did explain that the cultural attache office was already exempting some students from the rule after taking into consideration their personal circumstances.
In his statement, Al-Issa stressed on the fact that Saudi women who pursue higher studies abroad are "mature enough and can bear their own responsibility without the need of a male guardian to be with them."
He explained that once the rule is cancelled, several problems currently facing Saudi women who want to study outside of the kingdom will be solved. These issues include women who are getting into marriages only so they could have a husband who can travel abroad with them.
Al-Issa's statement gives hope to thousands of Saudi women looking forward to study in foreign countries. His words come at a time when the women of his country have been winning their rights one after the other.
After a long fight for their rights, this is finally the era of Saudi women
Saudi women have put up numerous fights over the years to break up the kingdom's male guardianship system - which forces women to depend on their fathers, brothers, husbands, or sometimes even son, in nearly all aspects of public life.
Their quest seems to be finally paying off as the kingdom has taken major steps to loosen its male guardianship system. Though the system is still effectively in place, articles governing women's right to movement and travel without male consent have been axed.
Months before this decision was announced, the kingdom altered a number of laws related to the system governing women's lives, including access to government services, which previously required a woman to obtain consent from her male guardian.
In September 2017, Saudi Arabia's King Salman issued a royal decree granting women their right to drive. The order lifted a long-standing and heavily criticized ban on women driving in the country. Months later, the ban lift officially took effect as women were finally able to hit the country's roads in June 2018.
Other than granting them their most basic of rights, the country has also been opening up new opportunities for women and encouraging them to join its workforce.
In recent months, several fields that were previously deemed off-limit for women have opened up to them. Women are also being hired in high-ranking government and legal roles that were strictly limited to men for decades.