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Ministry decree forces Saudi businesswoman to close IT company

Companies owned by women asked to hire men to manage operations in the region

After a long hard fight against strict Saudi commercial laws, businesswoman Alia Banaja has decided to shut down her Jeddah-based web design and software solutions firm 2 The Point.

According to ministerial decree released in 2004, a Saudi woman can own and manage her business if it only employs and caters to women. If however the company catered to both men and women, she would need to hire a man to manage the business.

Despite the clarification, some businesswomen were still reportedly asked to employ men as the ministry’s decision was implemented only in a few regions of the country.

Banaja, together with several other prominent local women, decided to set up a campaign that they hoped would extend the decision to the entire Kingdom and do away with the condition of employing a man to manage company matters which they said had led to an abuse of power in some cases.

The lack of progress over the years has now forced Alia to close down local operations of 2 The Point, who plans to relocate the company in London. She was not immediately available for comment but in a recent interview with state daily Arab News, she defended her decision by stating that it was the only feasible course of action.

"I realise the anguish of the female workers in the company, but the constant pressure exerted by the appointed male agents in my business has disrupted many of my economic interests. I am no longer able to accomplish projects as quickly and efficiently as required, so the closure of my business activity is optimal for the moment,” Banaja told the paper.

Banaja also expressed her disappointment and frustration with the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, saying that: “I have waited long enough for them to act on behalf of us businesswomen, but the realities are otherwise."