On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's Shoura Council rejected a draft proposal aimed at increasing the number of female members in municipal councils, Saudi Gazette reported.
Had it passed, the bill would've forced the Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs to make sure municipal councils were made up of 30 percent women.
Noura Al-Masad, one of the four women members who worked on the proposal, said that "71 council members voted in favor of the proposal but it failed short of securing the majority of the required 76 votes by five votes only."
According to Saudi Gazette, the kingdom's Shoura Council has 150 members including 30 women. Any given proposal has to get a minimum of 76 positive votes to pass within the authority.
Though the proposal failed to pass at this point in time, Al-Masad still considers the voting outcome as positive given that it was supported by so many council members. However, she also stressed that the rejection means the bill cannot be put forth again before two years. She hoped the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs will take initiative in getting ideas from the proposal.
Lina Almaeena, another council member who was left shocked by the bill's rejection, explained to Saudi Gazette that she doesn't get why the proposal didn't get enough votes. She also questions the stance against the increasing of women members in the municipal councils.
According to Almaeena, women are only represented in 10 out of 284 municipal councils. There are 19 women who won their seats in the municipal elections and 15 who were appointed by the minister. Those appointed constitute only 1 percent of the total number of appointees, the council member stated.
This is a step back for Saudi women, but improvements are still being made
Though this vote down is a step back for women in the kingdom, they are still making strides especially when it comes to earning municipal positions.
Just a few years back, Saudi women were not considered to head any kind of municipality in the country, but that all changed in 2018 when Nahla Bint Saleh Madhhar was hired to head the women's municipality in Madinah.
That same year, another woman, Daleel Khalaf Al Shimmari, was appointed as head of the women's municipality in the kingdom's Northern Region. Four Saudi women were handed leading roles in Jeddah's Municipality.
In 2017, Eman bint Abdulla Al-Ghamdi was appointed as assistant mayor of Al-Khobar municipality for information technology. She is considered to be the first Saudi woman to ever hold a similar municipal post in Saudi Arabia.