Ramyah, 37, who led the telegram initiative, feels strongly about ending guardianship because of personal experience. A college-educated nurse, for years she was her family’s main breadwinner, supporting her unemployed husband. Even then, her husband refused to let her travel.
When she obtained a divorce and moved back with her parents, her guardianship—she calls it “ownership”—returned to her father.
“At work, I am very respected,” said Ramyah. “But when I come home I have another personality: I am a child again.”Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most extreme case of a country in which women have been given access to education and the labor force, but where the culture at home remains very traditional and oppressive of women. To be sure, Saudi Arabia is not a low fertility country, but its birth rate has dropped considerably over the past few decades. Since 1985, the TFR has dropped from 7 children per woman to "only" 2.8, as I noted earlier this year. The Saudi economy's reliance on oil means that it cannot afford to have a continued huge increase in population. A third of its population is under the age of 15, according to data from the latest PRB World Population Data Sheet. Economic survival really depends on the liberation of women and a continued sharp drop in the birth rate.