- Title: SAUDI ARABIA: Women get a taste of success from local cake trade
- Date: 18th December 2012
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) ABDUL-AZIZ AL-ENEZI ,VISITOR, SAYING: ''With regards to khalija, we bought some, and it's a way of helping the families that make them, and we're used to khalija it's one of the traditional things, and we take them and we give them to our family and friends.'' (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) ABDUL-RAHMAN AL-SAEED, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF KHALIJA FESTIVAL, SAYING: ''The main point of the festival, is that the Saudi woman has become a business woman in a society where traditionally she was in the family home. So now we have a business woman in our society who is also doing her normal day to day job. The women have broken the fear barrier, or that of working, selling, buying. Thank god, she has become like men who are also businessmen whilst still observing the habits and traditions.'' FESTIVAL GOERS
- Embargoed: 2nd January 2013 12:00
- Location: Saudi Arabia
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Topics: Business,Industry,Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky
- Reuters ID: LVA4M300HLQNCTY1NDG2EJJC83DB
- Story Text: Um Abdullah and her daughters have a busy day ahead of them.
Taking orders from clients they're getting ready to bake hundreds of traditional cakes to sell at a local festival.
The cakes are called 'Khalija' a traditional sweet made from dough, sugar and butter.
In Um Abdullah's house the women are all prepared to get their hands dirty, kneading the dough, stuffing it, and shaping it into small circles.
For this Saudi family in the conservative Qassim area, the khalija business is a way for Um Abdullah to contribute to her family's income.
At times she can make more than 260 U.S dollars from selling her home-made cakes.
''Sometimes we only make around 200-300 a day, and sometimes we make a 1000 or more, it depends on the clients. If we have customers we make a lot, and the festivals also provide opportunities for us,'' she said.
In this conservative Islamic kingdom, where gender segregation is strictly enforced, paid employment has traditionally been seen as an all-male preserve. But this Saudi family are among several pushing beyond the boundaries of the gender gap.
One of those behind this year's Khalija festival praised the women's work, ''The Saudi woman has become a business woman in a society where traditionally she was in the family home. So now we have a business woman in our society who is also doing her normal day to day job. The women have broken the fear barrier, or that of working, selling, buying. Thank god, she has become like men who are also businessmen whilst still observing the habits and traditions,'' said Abdul-Rahman Al-Saeed, Executive Vice President of Khalija Festival.
One Saudi official also added that these kinds of events also provide women with indirect employment opportunities.
In a country where women are banned from driving and need the permission of a close male relative to work, travel and even have certain kinds of surgery, female employment is another battleground between traditionalists and those who want change.
While the ruling al-Saud family has always had a close relationship with the influential and deeply conservative Wahhabi clerics, the government has cautiously pushed for reforms that give women more rights.
Social opposition is far from the only obstacle in the way of Saudi women who want to work.
Not only do they need the permission of a father, elder brother or husband, but given the ban on women driving and lack of good public transport they need to hire a driver or rely on a male relative who can drop them off.
For employers the situation is just as difficult. They have to conform to strict segregation requirements that ensure unmarried men and women will not be placed in the sort of unchaperoned proximity that could incur the wrath of the religious police.
More women than men graduated from higher education institutions last year, but the labour market has so far failed to catch up.
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