January 24, 2017
By Melinda Czifrak
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has received higher degrees of press attention lately, not so much because of its booming oil empire, but because it provides provocative news fodder for disapproving outsiders.
To this day, it is the only nation in the world that prohibits women from driving cars; the only nation that requires every adult female citizen to live under the supervision of a male guardian; and the last nation, other than Vatican City, to grant women the right to vote.
Still, in this seemingly male-dominated part of the world, it is the women that ultimately stand out.
“Despite facing quite a few challenges along the way, Saudi women have managed to break into the labor market,” Zakia Albuti, a Saudi student at Dominican said. “Recent numbers show that Saudi women own more than $100 billion in stocks, so the success of these business women in trade and projects is on the rise.”
Albuti’s own success at Dominican cannot easily be overlooked.
A corporate communication major, she is currently the president of the Saudi club at Dominican, a club consisting primarily of male members.
“I believe it is very important to have the club at Dominican, because it gives students, faculty, and staff the possibility to learn more about our religion, culture, and customs,” Albuti said. “Unfortunately, every culture has stereotypes, but my hope is that our club will help dissuade a few, if not all of them.”
The club is also a great way for Saudi students to interact with each other. Currently, there are over 73 students from Saudi Arabia at Dominican, which accounts for the largest population of international students at the university.
“I am fortunate to come from a country whose government is willing to finance and support my education abroad,”Albuti said.
The King Abdullah Scholarship Program finances the studies of thousands of Saudi students. It is one of the only scholarship programs in the world to allocate a large amount of money for the education of its youth – men and women, alike.
“I am not the first woman to be elected as president of a Saudi club,” Albuti said. “There are many women leading these clubs across the U.S. I am fortunate, however, to be able to join their ranks.”
Albuti stated the sense of unity and friendship members of the call share, calling the club “family.” “We support and respect each other,” Albuti said.
At present, the club’s most popular event is its annual celebration of Saudi culture. Last year’s event was titled Saudi Vision 2030, and it gathered a large group of students, faculty, and staff eager to learn more about the country, try traditional food, get their names written in Arabic calligraphy, have henna drawn on their hands, and listen to presentations about the country’s culture.
The event is an ongoing tradition at Dominican, with Albuti looking to introduce more. “I’m thinking about new events that would shed more light on Saudi culture,” she said. “I’m also considering organizing smaller events meant to target specific elements of our culture, such as music.”
Until then, Albuti will keep building her legacy, breaking one stereotype at a time.