A group of Saudi women went for a jog in Jeddah to celebrate Women’s Day
To mark International Women’s Day, women in the Saudi city of Jeddah took to the streets for a jogging session, an activity they did not always have the privilege to do.
The group of women jogged around Jeddah’s historic district as they donned sports-friendly abayas, as part of an event organized by Saudi women’s running club, Bliss Runners.
To celebrate progress made under the umbrella of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, these women decided to exercise a right they only recently gained, by exercising.
“This is just the beginning of a revolution for women in Saudi Arabia. In jobs, in our lives, in society, everything is going to change for Saudi women,” said Sama Kinsara, one of the joggers, in an interview with Reuters.
“I am a woman and the time is now”
In July 2017, Saudi Arabia introduced physical education for girls enrolled in schools and began granting licenses for women’s gyms in the kingdom, finally giving women an opportunity to exercise in public.
Only recently have women began taking physical activity to the public sphere.
The kingdom’s first-ever women’s run took place earlier this month, marking a historical moment for women in the local sports sector.
The event saw over 1,500 women from across the kingdom take part.
Just weeks before the run took place, Saudi officials announced that women will be invited to take part in the Riyadh international marathon next year.
Previously, women were prohibited from running in the country’s official marathons.
“I am the present, between past and future, the time is now”
In recent months, the kingdom held its first-ever women’s basketball tournament and announced it will soon be hosting a women’s football competition.
Saudi female athletes have also been making international headlines for their achievements at global scale events, including the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Four female athletes took part in the international games, following in the footsteps of two bold Saudi women who participated in the London 2012 games, the first time Saudi Arabia allowed female Olympians to join.
In 2012, Sarah Attar became the first female track athlete to represent Saudi Arabia when she competed in the the 800 meter race in London.
Saudi Arabia first began celebrating Women’s Day in 2017. At the time, a three-day event was held in Riyadh at the King Fahd Cultural Center.
“We are here, and the time is now”
The women are “exercising one of their newly acquired freedoms: the right to go for a jog,” as Reuters put it
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) March 8, 2018
In recent years, the kingdom has amended a number of laws in an effort to empower women, including opening municipal elections to female candidates and making women’s verbal consent to marriage mandatory.
In September 2017, Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on women driving, ending the long-standing policy that has been heavily criticized since 1990.
Still, a number of needed reforms remain untouched. The kingdom’s guardianship system is just one example.
Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system – which subjects women to full dependence on their fathers, brothers, husbands, or sometimes even sons, in nearly all aspects of public life – has received criticism over the years as it is a hindrance to women’s progress.