Saudi women take a more active role in running Hajj services

Women's participation in the workforce has increased since the launch of the kingdom's Vision 2030 programme

Saudi police women stand alert in front of the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah, in July 2021. AP
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Read the latest updates on the Hajj pilgrimage here.

Saudi women are playing a bigger role in the logistics behind Hajj this year, with new jobs within the General Cars Syndicate in Makkah.

The syndicate was set up more than 90 years ago and is responsible for arranging transport for pilgrims around the different sites of Hajj in Makkah and Madinah. Saudi women are now working in customer service and media representation roles within the organisation.

“When I arrived I saw that most of the immigration officers were women and they were all very confident and good at what they do. They were all covered and following the rules of Islam and I loved seeing that,” said Rushda Babukhan, an Indian pilgrim in Makkah.

Women's participation in the workforce has increased since the launch of the kingdom's Vision 2030 programme. This year, more Saudi female nurses than male nurses — 827 women out of 1,383 nurses — are working during Hajj.

“We are very grateful to the government for supporting us and giving us these opportunities,” said Dr Mona, a family doctor who will be working alongside the nurses sent to Makkah.

“It is an honour to serve pilgrims during Hajj. Even though we will barely have any rest or time off, I am looking forward to working here as it is my first time to be working during Hajj.”

Last year, for the first time in the country's history, Saudi female soldiers were seen working as part of the security services that monitor pilgrims during Hajj.

Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 aims to empower women and offer them equal roles in the job market, as well as society, through easing restrictions and giving them more rights to work, travel and drive without a male guardian's permission.

Earlier this month, the General Authority for Statistics said the total rate of unemployment in Saudi Arabia dropped to 6 per cent in the first three months of the year from 6.9 per cent during the same period in 2021.

Last year, the Hajj ministry officially allowed women of all ages to make the pilgrimage without a male guardian or relative, allowing them to travel in groups.

Last week, the General Union of Automobiles said it was ready to launch transportation services for this year's Hajj season, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

“The buses and transportation is planned perfectly for pilgrims, minimising any waiting time for Hajj pilgrims who are out in the sun," Samira Khan, an Indian pilgrim, told The National. "Especially for people who are on wheelchairs, we find the staff to be very helpful and help them first. The buses are air-conditioned and there is a designated spot outside the Haram for pilgrims to board for Mina and set places for specific groups from the Holy Sites.

“There are no old buses. In fact, people in the past had to suffer in the heat for hours on the bus. Now the transfer between sites and cities is so easy and comfortable."

The transport services offer prompt assistance to pilgrims travelling between the Holy Sites and the Grand Mosque during the Hajj pilgrimage.

The association has support centres between Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah and the Holy Sites, for dealing with bus failures and there is a wireless communication network for pilgrims all along.

Updated: July 07, 2022, 11:04 AM