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Spot the woman: Saudi girls' council photo goes viral

The first Qassim Girls Council meeting took place on Saturday [Twitter]

Date of publication: 13 March, 2017

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The first meeting for an official Girls Council in the Qassim province of Saudi Arabia has raised controversy after photos showed no women present.
Images of the inaugural meeting of the first Girls Council in Saudi Arabia's al-Qassim province drew a slew of commentary over the absence of women after circulating widely on social media.

The first Qassim Girls Council meeting took place on Saturday and while images showed 13 men seated on stage, female participation was limited to a video-link via which an unknown number of female participants joined from another room.

The meeting was chaired by the Prince Faisal bin Mishal bin Saud, the governor of al-Qassim province, who said the conference was the first of its kind in the kingdom and a source of pride.

"In the Qassim region we look at women as sisters to men, and we feel responsible to open up more and more opportunities in all that will serve the work of women and girls," he said, adding that work opportunities for women must be opened according to religious teachings.

The Qassim Girls Council is chaired by Abir bint Salman, the wife of the governor.

The Qassim Girls Council is chaired by Abir bint Salman, the wife of the governor.

Social media users however took to issue with the images from the conference itself, railing against the lack of any female presence in the conference.

"Where were the girls of Qassim during the first meeting of the Girls Council in the Qassim?" one user asked on Twitter.

"How can an event that is central around women have men as participants? Give [the woman] the full right to take part and make a public appearance. Where is the woman here?" a second user said.

Another user compared the photo to that of US President Donald Trump signing orders to stop US funding of international organisations offering abortion services to women while being surrounded by men.

Women in the conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia face many restrictions in work and travel.

But the kingdom is swaying towards relaxing rules on women as part of its Vision 2030 campaign.

Last month, sports centres across the kingdom received special licenses to open women's only zones.

Women in Saudi Arabia will be permitted to attend the gym for the first time, when the government distributes to sports centres this month.

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