Saudi Arabia Launches Campaign Against Domestic Violence


Saudi Arabia Launches Powerful Campaign Against Domestic Violence
Saudi Arabia, a country not exactly known for progressive attitudes toward women, has launched its first major campaign against domestic violence—its latest effort to embrace some civil rights reforms.

The King Khalid Foundation has launched a new campaign, No More Abuse, to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence. The Arabic words read "Some things can't be covered. Fighting women's abuse together." Image courtesy the King Khalid Foundation
The King Khalid Foundation has launched a new campaign, No More Abuse, to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence. The Arabic words read “Some things can’t be covered. Fighting women’s abuse together.”
Image courtesy the King Khalid Foundation

Discussion Ideas:

  • No More Abuse is not a government program. It is an awareness campaign sponsored by a powerful nonprofit organization, the King Khalid Foundation. The campaign is part of a larger movement to bring greater rights to Saudi Arabian women. The World Economic Forum evaluates “the gender gap” using “the four pillars”: economic participation and opportunityeducational attainmenthealth and survival; and political empowerment.
    • Read our “media spotlight” on the efforts of King Abdullah, the current Saudi monarch, to expand women’s rights. How do students think Saudi Arabia is working to address the “four pillars”?
      • economic participation and opportunity: An increasing number of women are working outside the home (according to the spotlight, between ten and 25 percent).
      • educational attainment: At least some educational institutions, including the highly regarded King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, are open to both male and female students. Online education is also expanding learning opportunities for Saudi women.
      • health and survival: According to the CIA World Factbook, women live longer than men in Saudi Arabia, as do women in most countries. There is also a lower infant mortality rate among girls. No More Abuse is an example of Saudi leaders working to protect the health and survival of women.
      • political empowerment: King Abdullah’s cabinet (Council of Ministers) is the first to include a woman. Norah al-Faiz is Saudi Arabia’s vice-minister of education.
  • As the Washington Post blog notes, Saudi Arabia is still ranks very poorly in the World Economic Forum’s analysis “Measuring the Global Gender Gap.” Based on the organization’s “four pillars,” why do students think Saudi Arabia falls behind Iceland, Finland, and other leaders in women’s equality?
    • Women in Saudi Arabia are required to have a “male guardian.” This is not an official legal requirement, but a pervasive social one. This guardianship can severely affect all economic and social opportunities available to women. The guardian may exert little influence, or he may restrict her social mobility, employment opportunities, educational advancement, even her health care. Saudi Arabia is also the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive, and the “right to drive” is both a symbol of freedom and a practical example of independence.
      • economic participation and opportunity: Even though numbers are growing, few women work outside the home, and women have very restricted job opportunities. Women are discouraged from jobs where they may work with unmarried men, for example. As a result, most women work in retail shops catering to other women, and female doctors and teachers usually only serve female patients and students.
      • educational attainment: Most Saudi educational institutions are segregated, and male lecturers are rarely allowed to speak to female classes. This limits opportunities for female students.
      • health and survival: One of the reasons the No More Abuse campaign is so important is the high rate of unreported domestic violence in Saudi Arabia. According to Saudi writer Samar Fatany, one in every six women is raped or abused in Saudi Arabia, and most of these crimes go unreported and unprosecuted. Moreover, some victims of abuse are actually punished for reporting the crime.
      • political empowerment: Saudi women cannot vote or run for political office. (Norah al-Faiz is not an elected official. She was appointed to her position.)
  • The No More Abuse poster uses powerful graphic design to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence in Saudi Arabia. Read our “media spotlight” on key graphic design elements: text, color, and design. Considering these elements, why do students think the No More Abuse image makes such an impact?
    • text: There is little text, making the image a universal one. People who don’t read a word of Arabic can immediately recognize the image of a woman with a black eye. For those who can read Arabic, the words themselves complement the image: “Some things can’t be covered,” making reference to the model’s niqab, a hijab garment that covers a woman’s entire body with only slits for eyes. The King Khalid Foundation  uses the metaphor of darkness throughout its No More Abuse campaign. (Domestic abuse is “a phenomenon found in the dark,” according to its website.) This echoes the severe color of the niqab.
    • color: Like most hijab garments, the model’s niqab is black, making her bruised eye dramatically stand out in the image.
    • design: The poster’s simple design makes its compelling message quickly and immediately.
      • The stark niqab and Arabic script identify the subject matter as Arabic, even specifically Saudi Arabian. (Women in Afghanistan, for instance, are more associated with sky-blue burqas than black niqabs.)
      • The model, in a close-up photograph, is looking directly at the camera, forcing the viewer to confront her and the evidence of her abuse.
      • The niqab’s eye slits force the viewer to focus on the model’s eyes. Only one eye is bruised, making the distinction dramatic and jarring. (If both eyes were bruised, the effect would be somewhat balanced, perhaps making less of an impact.)

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