By Prarthana Mitra
Saudi Arabia is going through a peculiar phase in its drive towards female empowerment. Although Riyadh recently hosted the first fashion week and opened its film theatre to men and women alike, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is putting hordes of female gender rights activists behind bars amidst massive crackdown from international media and human rights bodies all over the world.
The ambivalence continues this week, with the latest announcement from Riyadh-based carrier Flynas to recruit Saudi women as flight attendants and co-pilots, for the first time in the country’s history.
As soon as the notice hit the stands, the airline received over 1,000 applications within a span of 24 hours, a spokesman for the airline told AFP on Thursday. “Flynas is keen to empower Saudi women to play an important role in the kingdom’s transformation,” the low-cost carrier said Wednesday in its call for applications.
Why it matters
Although it’s not technically illegal for women to work in the aviation sector, Saudi carriers have traditionally only offered foreign women, especially from the Philippines, airline jobs such as flight attendance and stewardship. Furthermore, it provides the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom good media optics for their current liberalisation drive.
This is certainly a positive and progressive step for women in Saudi Arabia, a country renowned for oppressive laws for its women, although it recently lifted the decades-long ban on women drivers earlier this year. However, women still require permission from their male guardians or relatives to travel.
The airline’s recruitment drive comes just days after Flyadeal, another low-cost Saudi carrier, began to post possible job openings for Saudi women to work as flight attendants. This move also arrives in the heels of Prince Salman’s declaration to improve the sex ratio and female participation in the Saudi workforce.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius