RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has appointed 10 women in senior roles at Islam’s two holiest sites, authorities said Sunday, as the conservative petro-state seeks to boost female employment.
The appointment of women in senior positions at religious institutions is rare in the Islamic kingdom, which is in the midst of a wide-ranging liberalisation drive spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The women were appointed in the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina across various departments, including administrative and technical, according to statement released by the general presidency for the affairs of the two holy mosques.
The recruitment drive was aimed at “empowering Saudi women with high qualifications and capabilities”, the statement said.
The two holy mosques previously recruited 41 women in leadership positions in 2018, according to Saudi media.
Prince Mohammed has sought to boost employment for women as part of his “Vision 2030” plan, which is aimed at diversifying the kingdom’s economy and ending its addiction to oil.
The number of working women in Saudi Arabia reached 1.03 million in the third quarter of 2019, 35% of the total workforce, compared to 816,000 in 2015, according to official figures.
In other reforms, women in the kingdom are now allowed to drive cars, cinemas have reopened and genders are permitted to mix at events, including concerts, and in public places.
But the reforms have also been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent.
Saudi Arabia has detained and put on trial a dozen women activists who long campaigned for the right to drive, sparking widespread condemnation.
Some of the activists allege they were tortured and sexually harassed by interrogators.