The king of Saudi Arabia has announced that women will be given the right to vote and stand in elections.
The move has been hailed as a bold shift in the conservative monarchy and marks one of the largest changes in the country’s tightly controlled society since king Abdullah took power six years ago.
Saudi Arabia’s rulers allow elections for only half of the seats on municipal councils, which have few powers, and women will not be afforded the vote until 2015.
Nalia Attar, who organized a campaign for women to be allowed to participate in the municipal council elections, said the move marked the beginning of progress.
“Despite the issue of the effectiveness of these councils, women’s involvement in them was necessary. Maybe after women join there will be other changes,” she said.
Broader issues regarding women’s rights in the country remain unaddressed. Women still require a male relative’s permission to work or leave the country, and they are still forbidden to drive.