Ministry suspends Baladi Initiative, sparks debate

Arab News
Publication date: 
Aug 09 2015

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs has suspended the Baladi Initiative, triggering a debate as some commercial establishments have already started training workshops and seminars for females in view of the forthcoming civic polls and many are about to launch the same.
A local publication on Saturday said, quoting sources, that the ministry may be planning to organize these courses itself to ensure that they are not used for commercial purposes.
A number of institutions have already started advertising specialized courses for the electoral process, mainly targeting women. A number of courses have already been held in Riyadh, Jeddah and the Eastern Province and 300 women took part.
Major foundations and establishments have extended financial assistance for these training courses, in addition to logistics and other assistance. Some Arab human rights organization have also entered the arena, inviting women activists and lawyers to join for free courses on the elections. 
The Baladi (my country) Initiative, which was launched four years ago, seeks to support women in familiarizing with the nuances of elections through various platforms. Voters can register between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. from Aug. 22 to Sept. 14 for the December 12. Candidates can do so from Aug. 30 to Sept. 17. 
Hatoon Al-Fassi, the general coordinator of the Baladi Initiative, described the Ministry’s decision as “irrational” because the courses are in the best interest of candidates. 
She said: “In a phone call to our training partners, the ministry stated about the suspension.” The reason for such action may be organizational and to prevent commercial exploitation, she said, adding that they will hold the courses free of charge.
“During the years 2013 and 2014, about 350 women received training through 13 workshops held across 10 regions of the Kingdom,” said Al-Fassi.
Recently, she said, about 180 women registered in the second edition of Sharika program, but only one workshop has been held in Riyadh.
Al-Fassi said a meeting is scheduled to be held soon with the General Municipal Elections Committee to discuss the suspension decision and find a solution.