Saudi Women Allowed to Run as Candidates for First Time in Local Elections Face Hurdles

"I am doing this for my daughters' future," said one female candidate.

The opportunity for women to be a part of the electoral process was awarded as a "gift" by the late King Abdullah, but taking advantage of this gift was not easy.

"This election is in a way educational. It's an eye-opener for everyone," said Karima Buchari is a senior school science teacher based in Saudi Arabia's capital of Riyadh.

Buchari opted to be a candidate as soon as the news of the elections was announced. As a woman, Buchari said she never had high expectations about the electoral process or about the powers that will be given to successful candidates, but that she thinks that it is important for every female to step up.

"I am doing this for my daughters' future. I want to see them in powerful positions," Buchari said. "This is just a start. We are opening and paving the way for all the ladies of the kingdom.”

Of the 4.5 million eligible female voters, only 132,000 registered, compared with more than 1.35 million men. And 978 women ran as candidates, compared with 6,428 men.

Campaign rules stated that women are barred from attending campaign events where men are present and from contacting them on social media, making it difficult to target both genders in order to win votes. Candidates wishing to meet directly with voters had to meet women one day and men the next, with a male spokesman addressing the men.

Buchari did not win, nor did any of the other 23 female candidates competing in her district for municipal council seats.

“I did not reach a lot of people. I did not reach the minimum even," Buchari said. "We needed more exposure. We needed more methods to meet people."