Women way. Moreover, it recognizes that men and

Women around the world constitute the
great majority of people living in poverty conditions. However, it is not only
the poverty gap between men and women that demands concern; it is the fact that
women are much more vulnerable to human rights violations in poverty conditions
than men1.
According to the 2013 World Development Indicators, Saudi Arabia was ranked as
the 34th country with the highest human development index, based on
the Income Gini Coefficient2. In other words, currently there is not
a wide gap in the distribution
of income among different households and individuals. These
high levels of development have open many opportunities for all members of the
society, increasing their chances of overcoming poverty. A couple of decades
ago, women in Saudi Arabia were presumed to be facing the challenges of
poverty, including a higher vulnerability to
physical, sexual and mental violence, and structural impediments for their
social advancement3. However, recent developments and new policies
have guaranteed that most
of Saudi women are now safeguarded from the threat of
poverty and its effects. Although a few less fortunate regions are still facing
some challenges, the Kingdom has experienced a significant change on this issue
and is on the right path to continue doing so4.


In Islam, neither men nor women are
superior than the other; both are honored and empowered with rights in the same
way. Moreover, it recognizes that men and women have different physiological
and psychological characters, and that “each plays a unique role to mutually
uphold social morality and societal balance”5. Therefore, it is
not expected for men and women to work the same amount of hours nor the same
kind of jobs. In some cases, this has resulted in Saudi Arabia being accused of
denying women’s access to economic and social development. However, those
criticisms don’t acknowledge that the main objective of the Kingdom is to grant
women the best opportunities to develop themselves in their roles, which are
seen as “essential for the spiritual
growth of the members of the society”6. In fact, the objective
of the Vision 2030 plan for Saudi Arabia is “a society in which all enjoy a
good quality of life, a healthy lifestyle, and expanded cultural
opportunities”, for which the government has recognized the “role of
Saudi women in the economic, political and social development of the Kingdom”7.
That is why Saudi Arabia has undertaken different measures to increase the
participation of women in the labor force from 22 percent to 30 percent by 2030
and to eliminate the structural barriers that were threatening women’s rights8.
These measures include the decision of allowing women to work in the retail
sector in 20129, the lift of its ban on women driving in 201710,
and an order issued by King Salman in May of 2017 allowing women work in the
private and public sector without needing their male guardian’s consent11.
In relation to the direct effects of poverty on women, Saudi Arabia, under the
Sharia Law, has a zero tolerance policy regarding rape and sexual violence12.
Therefore, it reaffirmed its compromise in protecting women against those unwarrantable
violations through the establishment of 64 shelters and 17 committees for the
social protection of women victims of physical and sexual abuses13.

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In order to reduce the effects of
poverty on women worldwide, there should be a strategic prioritization of which
are the most resource-effective initiatives to achieve that
goal. This way, the International Community can redirect their efforts into the
programs that will have more impact at first according to each region. For
example, the use of culturally sensitive family planning methods has proved to
be one of the least expensive initiatives, with high impacts in the lives of
women to prevent poverty and to find socioeconomic advancement14.
Additionally, in order to protect women from physical and sexual violence,
networks should be established between different institutions of each community
that can provide medical, psychological, and legal assistance to women. Also,
the expansion of E-Government services and access could work to reduce inequalities
in the workplace and public services limitations of women. Finally, in order to
make sure that the
initiatives are effective and adaptable to every region of the world, they need
to consider that the role of women in the society varies across different
cultures. Only when this Commission understands how the religious, social and
cultural context influences the perception of women, is when it will be able to
empower them to overcome the obstacles of poverty. Therefore, different
perspectives on the role of women should be respected, because to protect one’s
own beliefs does not require to disrespect others.