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Debate rages over Saudi women working as cashiers

Debate rages over Saudi women working as cashiers

Panda supermarket has launched its pilot programme of women cashiers in Saudi. Fatima Sidiya of Arab News reports on the fierce debate this has triggered in the country.

August 26, 2010 2:09 by

The Saudi society has been debating on the Internet about the announcement by Panda supermarket chain that they are now trialing women cashiers.

Many disagreed with the decision, believing it will only create more social problems and put Saudi women in embarrassing situations where they could be harassed by customers. Others, however, supported the idea, believing that women have already been working in mixed environments for long time.

Arab News went to number of public places where women are selling, including Jeddah’s downtown (the Balad). Om Amir, a Saudi woman who sells henna and traditional clothing at the Bedouin Souq, said that she and her eldest daughter work the booth.

“We have been selling here for ages, I raised my children from what I sell here,” she told Arab News.

The Bedouin Souq contains many women plying their wares, not just Saudis but also Egyptians, Indonesians and Africans.

Meanwhile, in the malls of north Jeddah, only a handful of shops have female sales clerks and they’re all women-only establishments. Women also work in theme parks and play areas and bazaars at malls. Salaries range from SR1,500 (AED 1,469) and SR3,000 a month. About 16 women work now as cashiers in Roshan Mall in Jeddah to serve women and families.

The main criteria for women to work as cashiers is that they be Saudi, above 28 years of age, have a financial need, be a widow or divorced woman and stick to dress code that goes with the religion, a source said, adding that people who are against women working at these jobs should see the location before even criticizing them. “It will take time anyway to accept it but we will move forward anyway,” the source said.

In Saudi forums people have been criticizing the decision or supporting it based on their own views. Members of the public expressed concern that this could lead to harassment because women will meet young men and that could harm both of them. Other groups however said that though the idea is new, the society can still consider it and get used to it with time.

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