Women This Week: Women Soldiers in Saudi Arabia
from Women Around the World

Women This Week: Women Soldiers in Saudi Arabia

Welcome to “Women Around the World: This Week,” a series that highlights noteworthy news related to women and U.S. foreign policy. This week’s post covers February 22 to March 5.
Hanadi Hindi, first female pilot from Saudi Arabia, sits in the cockpit of a plane prior to takeoff in Amman, Jordan in 2003.
Hanadi Hindi, first female pilot from Saudi Arabia, sits in the cockpit of a plane prior to takeoff in Amman, Jordan in 2003. Ali Jarekji/REUTERES

This week's post was compiled by Elena Ortiz, intern with the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Saudi Female Military Ban Lifted

For the first time in the Saudi kingdom’s history, the ministry of defense announced that Saudi women can join the military as soldiers, sergeants, and staff. These roles allow women to advance into senior positions, but do not entail active combat duties. Plans to permit women’s participation in the military were first publicized in 2019, around the time when Saudi Arabia first allowed women to drive, expanded economic opportunities, and allowed women to travel without male permission. These reforms are part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program, which aims boost women’s empowerment and strengthen the economy. However, rights groups continue to criticize the Saudi government for its incarceration of women’s rights activists who fought for many of these reforms.

Gaza Restricts Travel for Unmarried Women

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Gaza’s Supreme Judicial Council, a body run by Hamas, ruled that male guardians can restrict travel for unmarried women. According to the edict, permission from a father or brother must be formally registered at court, posing severe constraints on women’s rights, freedom, and agency. The decision prompted backlash from women’s and civil rights organizations, who marched in protest and ultimately pressured the Supreme Judicial Council to amend the ruling. Under the revision, a male guardian may now submit a claim to the court if he believes a woman is at risk of “grave harm,” leaving authorities to determine whether she can travel. Public outrage remains high, as advocates continue denounce the restrictions as a violation of the Palestinian constitution and women’s human rights.

New Zealand Government Addresses Period Poverty

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that free period products would be available in all schools beginning in June. Ardern stated that access to menstrual products will help “address period poverty, increase school attendance, and make a positive impact on children’s well-being.” A recent study revealed that twenty thousand New Zealand girls were at risk of not being able to afford period products, leading to shame and stigma that discourages school attendance. The United Kingdom recently eliminated their tampon tax, and Scotland, in an unprecedented move, made sanitary products free in public spaces. These reforms mark progress towards addressing period poverty worldwide, an urgent issue that affects five hundred million women and girls. 

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