Something historic is happening in Saudi Arabia this morning. For the first time in the super-conservative country's history, women are casting their votes. Around 130,000 women registered to vote in the country's municipal elections, and 978 women are running as municipal candidates, Mashable reports. Of course, that's compared to 1.35 registered male voters and 5,938 men running as candidates (for a total of 2,100 open seats), but in a country where it's illegal for women to drive, this is progress.
The first woman to register to vote in Saudi Arabia was Salma al-Rashed. "It felt really good," she told BBC. "Change is a big word, but the election is the way to make sure we are really represented."
Authorities initially agreed on women's voting rights in 2005, but the movement stalled for years. Finally, in 2011, they agreed women would be allowed to vote in 2015. The government's hesitation represents a pervasive opinion in Saudia Arabia that women have no place in political spheres. "[A woman's] role is not in such places," Abdullah Al-Maiteb, who voted this morining, told USA Today. "Her role is at home managing the house and raising a new generation. If we allow her out of the house to do such business, who is going to take care of my sons?"
Even though they have the vote, women must be driven to polling stations by their male guardians. Even the women who ran for office were forbidden to address male audiences directly—they had to speak through microphones behind partitions or select a man to represent them to voters, BBC reports. Polling stations are also segregated by gender, with only 424 of the 1,263 polling stations reserved for women.
Nevertheless, women have been traveling to polling stations all morning, using the hashtag #saudiwomenvote to express their enthusiasm.