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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Women in Saudi Arabia no longer need male permission to open businesses

The latest move in reform marks a major step away from the guardianship system

A Saudi women sells coffee mugs and cups with female faces drawings on them at Al Sharqiya Province pavilion during Al Janadria festival near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on February 17, 2018. Amel Pain / EPA
A Saudi women sells coffee mugs and cups with female faces drawings on them at Al Sharqiya Province pavilion during Al Janadria festival near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on February 17, 2018. Amel Pain / EPA

Women in Saudi Arabia can now open their own businesses without the consent of a male guardian in the latest move in a wave of changes in the country.

The announcement follows the kingdom’s historical decisions to allow women to drive next June and allowing them to enter previously male-only sports stadiums.

It marks a major step away from the guardianship system that stipulates a woman needs the consent of a husband or male relative to do any government work, travel or enrol in classes.

"Women can now launch their own businesses and benefit from [governmental] e-services without having to prove consent from a guardian," the ministry of commerce and investment said on its website on Thursday.

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Abdel Rahman Al Hussein, Ministry of commerce and Investment spokesman, said in a tweet: ““No need for a guardian’s permission. Saudi women are free to start their own business freely.”

The change comes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman rolls out his "Vision 2030" plan for economic and social reforms, which aims to increase women's workforce participation to 30 per cent from about 22 per cent now.

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The country is pushing to expand its private sector, as the young crown prince aims to shed the kingdom’s conservative image and reduce dependence on oil revenues.

Last month, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor’s office said it will start recruiting female investigators.

Also, the General Directorate of Passports opened 140 positions for women at airports and border crossing, a move that the government said drew more than 100,000 applicants.