Economic reforms and women's empowerment in Saudi Arabia

Topal A.

WOMENS STUDIES INTERNATIONAL FORUM, vol.76, 2019 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 76
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.wsif.2019.102253
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index, Scopus


Saudi Arabia has made headlines with its drive to "modernize the economy" and implement the structural reforms needed to realize the country's "Vision 2030". At the same time, recent "pro-women reforms" have been praised in the international media. This study problematizes these parallel processes, in order to trace the implications of Vision 2030 for "women's empowerment" in Saudi Arabia. Examining this process is particularly important in Saudi Arabia where gender regime has long been based on male supremacy and state-sanctioned discrimination depriving women of their basic human rights. The study suggests that women's empowerment has been used as a code word to increase the competitiveness of the Saudi economy with a view to increase foreign economic integration. In this sense, Saudi Arabia is a test case for questioning the extent to which business-friendly "women's empowerment" can actually contribute to the emancipation of women.