The Truth Behind Women Rights in the Middle East

Women Rights in the Muslim Culture

The Middle East is the crossroads of the world because it connects Asia, Africa and Europe. 

When you think of women’s rights in the middle east you think of oppression, exclusion, and minimal women’s rights. 

Women’s fight for rights in the middle east, dates back to 1906. Where in Iran, they fought mostly for women’s educational rights. 

When I first told my friends and family that I would be traveling to Saudi Arabia, everyone started inflicting their fears on me. Worried about how women are treated in Saudi and the oppressions behind the Muslim culture. 

A Little History of Women’s Rights: 

Throughout time, there have been different movements where women took the courage to get out on the streets and fight for their rights. Facing prominently religious resistance, it made it extremely difficult to gain traction. 

But in 1975 a victory was won. Women got the closest to equality laws they could, gaining the right to vote, to take part in public office, custody rights and reduced polygamy. Just when women were gaining traction. A few years later, in 1979, during the Islamic revolution, the Islamic Republic of Iran marginalized women as soon as it established its rule and women equality was rapidly and completely forgotten. 

Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman … Opens the Floodgates in Saudi Arabia: 

Nowadays, the fight continues. But in 2018 prince Mohammed bin Salman legalized the right for women to drive and gave women the choice to wear a hijab in public places. Before this, women were being driven around by contracted drivers and were completely covered, not to mention they had a different entrance than men at coffee shops and were overall completely separated from men. The only place they saw men in public was at the grocery store. 

The reason for the lift of this 2018 ban was to make it possible for more women to join the workforce and in return revitalize the country’s economy. 

Women Paving Paths in the Middle East:

Little by little, the participation of women in public life and in important roles in politics, economy and culture, has been increasing. Some of these great examples are those of Ms. Rola Abu Manneh, who in 2018 was named CEO of Standard Chartered UAE, becoming the first Emirati woman to lead a bank in the UAE.

Another woman paving the way in the middle east is Ms. Rania Nashar, the first female CEO of Saudi commercial bank, Samba Financial Group which is one of the largest in the region. She has also been an active creator of opportunities for women. She states: 

“I have to not only prove to myself that a bank of Samba’s size can be run by a female CEO — and can achieve the best results in its history — I have to prove it for all the women in Saudi Arabia and in the world,” Ms. Nashar notes. “I hope that I can be an honorable portrait for Saudi women.”

There are also big names out of the finance area, like the Queen of Jordan herself, Queen Rania, who has launched multiple foundations such as The Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development and Madrasti, to raising awareness about vaccine inequity–Queen Rania has long been at the forefront, working hard to make change happen. What’s more, is that she has also created counselling centers for child abuse and founded the Arab Sustainability Leadership Group to create a more sustainable future for the Arab World.

But, the list of middle eastern women in power is still not big enough. There is still work to be done.

The great news is that these women have been showing to all women in the Middle East, and to the women worldwide, that it is possible to thrive even in very difficult environments and oppositions of all sorts.

My Visit in Saudi Arabia:

It’s 2021, and as I walk on the streets in a tank top and business pants, I get stared at and often honked at by men encouraging the dress code. Women who I talk to tell me they would love to wear what I am wearing and take their abayas off but they do not have the courage to do so as their family name is on the line. Saudi Arabia has made some huge strides in the last 2 years to give women more rights but it still has a lot of work to do. 

Inequality is a Mindset! 

Just remember, women can do it, as does everybody else. It doesn’t matter what obstacle presents itself. 

Think about that for a moment.

Our thoughts and beliefs shape us since childhood and they have a great impact through our lives. These women went beyond these beliefs. We are not saying to drop our values or principles, but to learn to discern and use them for what they are truly meant to be, standing away from any sort of manipulation or whatever other situation that keeps us oppressed and unhappy. Religious and spiritual principles are valuable and an important base for all human beings. We are talking about the freedom for women to choose their lives, to be independent and to live a fulfilling life on their own; it does not matter if their dream life is to be a CEO of a company or to have a big family raising children. Both dreams are valuable and great. Everything is important as long as you have the opportunity to choose your path. 

Here at Residual Queens we believe in the power of choice that comes from being financially literate and independent and we know that all women, no matter the background, the status or the religion share similar struggles but we realize that the solution is the same.

We want to break those borders and gather together as we rise to build a better and happier world, changing each one of our paradigms and using respect and equality as our flags. 

Would you join us?

With Great Energy,

Mei-Jing Ang


Masige, Sharon. “Raising the Bar: Rania Nashar,” The CEO Magazine, 27 Jun. 2019

Women and power in the Middle East:

Liloia, A. (2020). Women in Arab countries find themselves torn between opportunity and tradition.

Liloia, A. (2019). Saudi women are going to college, running for office and changing the conservative country.

Abirafeh, L. (2017). What’s holding Arab women back from achieving equality?:

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