It is a British superstition to repeat the word “rabbit” on the first day of each month when you awake in the morning. Repeating this phrase brings the promise of good luck for the month. I would like to say “rabbit rabbit” to October in the hopes that it will bring good luck and progress to the following significant issues:
For those of you who have not heard of Niloufar Ardalan, better known as “Lady Goal,” she is the captain of the Iranian national women’s soccer team. The soccer star will not be allowed to travel abroad to compete in the Asian Football Federation Women’s Futsal Championship held in Malaysia later this month. “Why?” you may ask. Because under Islamic law, wives must obtain their husbands’ permission before renewing or acquiring a passport and Ardalan’s husband refuses to provide such permission.
Ardalan has turned her struggle into activism by asking authorities to allow female athletes to ‘defend their rights’ to compete. She is certainly not alone in this battle. Many women are now conditioning their acceptance to marriage proposals on their future husbands relinquishing such power. A “rabbit rabbit” goes out to Ardalan and all women facing similar restrictions.
There has been notable progress in the field of gender equality in Saudi Arabia. In 2011, the late King Abdullah announced that women would be allowed to run for office and vote in municipal elections, which occur every four years. In August, women in Saudi Arabia began registering to vote for the first time in the nation’s history but the roadblocks to voting are a reminder of how much progress the country has yet to make. Seventy women intend to run for office but it will be nearly impossible for women to exercise their right to vote given that it is illegal for them to drive and many do not have the personal identification cards required to vote.
In recent years, October has been a month of defiance and boldness by Saudi women. October 26th marks the “Women’s Driving Campaign.” On this day, despite threats of punishment by the country’s leaders, many brave Saudi women get behind the wheels of their cars to protest the ban on women driving in the kingdom. “Rabbit rabbit” to scrapping the male guardianship system, which forbids women from obtaining a passport, marrying, traveling, or accessing higher education without the approval of a male guardian. We look forward to seeing the activism to come this month!
The shocking lack of female elected officials is not limited to the distant international community. In the United States, women are a minority in the Senate and the House. Congress is 80% male and 80% white. While there have been over seventy female prime ministers and presidents in the world since Sri Lanka elected Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1960, there has never been a female President of the United States. But there is a greater chance than ever before that this country could elect its first female leader- a “rabbit rabbit” for November 2016.
Of course, we will need more than a simple wish for good luck to gain traction on these issues. It will take powerful activists, like Ardalan, female voters, and women moving into executive roles to progress. In the words of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “well-behaved women seldom make history.”