Through The OpEd Project, print and broadcast journalists and, eventually, alumni of the project, mentor women and minority opinion-shapers so they can get their views heard. In six short years, op-eds by women in leading US commentary outlets have increased by 40 percent, with Ms. Orenstein's project leading the way. The Op-Ed Project is planning its first international venture, in Norway. Let’s hope Saudi women are next.
I know just the Saudi woman who can champion such a project: Princess Ameerah al-Taweel. This young, stylish, determined woman is vice chairwoman of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation – named for her prince husband – which promotes education philanthropy and interfaith dialogue.
Her royal highness has assumed the mantle of change for women with a passion. In interviews with CNN, Forbes, and at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, she said that the new generation of Saudi women not only wants to drive, they also want to contribute fully to their country. She even speaks of the power of the op-ed as a way for women to coordinate their efforts – just as the clerics do.
She advises "evolution, not revolution,” but at a much faster pace than in the past. Hers is a savvy and pragmatic approach to present-day Saudi Arabia, where 60 percent of the population is under 30 but conservative clerics are entrenched.
Change so far has been glacially slow, though King Abdullah has pushed harder for women in recent years than any other previous ruler. In 2009, he allowed women and men to share classes at a university, and granted women the right to run in municipal elections in 2015.
Princess Ameerah recognizes that opposition to women’s reforms is based in tradition and culture, but more specifically in the powerful lobby of the conservative Saudi religious establishment. The clerics repulse efforts toward liberal reforms even when instituted by the monarch himself.