Islamic feminism and the strategic framework Saudi Vision2030: deconstructing a stereotype

by F. Adele Casale

Cover picture. Source


In 2016 Chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud approved the strategic framework Saudi Vision2030, in order to “make the heart of the Arab and Islamic world, a global engine for investment and a hub that connects three continents (Europe, Asia, Africa)”. As a lot of the political actions focus on 49% of the population that is young and female, the International Community sees the reforms as a sign of changes resulting from the activity of Saudi “Islamic feminism” without considering the local contexts, but, especially, without highlighting what is behind Saudi Vision2030.

1. Introduction

Saudi Vision2030 strategic framework, presented in 2016 by the current crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, envisages several actions to involve women, namely in the labour market. Several reforms have been proposed to grant Saudi women more freedom; the International Community itself enthusiastically greeted it as a progressive gender-sensitive set of reforms. However, at the same time, many women’s rights activists are still imprisoned, and political detentions continue to exist in Saudi Arabia. Then, is this a contradiction? What is beyond the Saudi Vision2030 programme? What is its social-political background? Is the crown prince just a misunderstood feminist or is his plan just a façade to conceal its interests rather than supporting the already strong Saudi women’s rights activism?


2. SaudiVision2030 programme and its background

In 2016, the Saudi Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA), chaired by crown prince (appointed in 2017) and deputy minister Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, launched the Saudi Vision2030 strategic framework, monitored by the same promulgating authority, and funded by the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

The actions mainly aim to boost national activities and restore the country’s image on the international stage, making the country "the heart of the Arab and Islamic world, a global engine for investment and a hub linking three continents (Europe, Asia, Africa), while improving the quality of life of its inhabitants".