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Master’s Degree in Development Studies, Saudi Arabian Woman, Empowerment of Women

A cosmopolitan woman from Saudi Arabia with liberal values, a global perspective, and a very progressive agenda, I am full of hope for social change in my country, Saudi Arabia, in terms of women’s rights. My father is not a typical Saudi man; rather, he is someone who highly values women’s contribution to society and favors equal treatment of women and men. He has raised 5 children now, all daughters, of which I am the youngest. Most of my older sisters are also professionals holding or pursuing graduate degrees in their field. My own career goals have been formed against this background; and dedicating my own professional life to the empowerment of women in Saudi society stands as a tribute and token of appreciation to both of my parents.

The single most important thing that my father did was to buy us a summer home in the Bay Area, a wonderful place for a little girl to grow up enjoying total freedom. Almost every year of my life, I have spent 2-3 months in our summer home in Foster City; and since adolescence, I have been exploring much of the Bay Area alone, as well as with my sisters and parents, something that I could never do in my home country of Saudi Arabia. Growing up in San Francisco in the summer time did wonders for my English; and for this I am very thankful. It is wonderful to speak English much better than anyone else in Saudi Arabia and it has always pleases me greatly. Being liberal minded in Saudi Arabia, however, can cause one problems and I have had my share.

As well traveled as I am well read, I have also spent 10 days in Tokyo and weeks at a time in Italy, France, and England. By the time I was growing into adolescence, I was becoming very sensitive about issues of discrimination against girls and women in Saudi Arabia. I had already seen the sadness and disappointments in my 4 older sisters, each one living through the difficulties and deceptions that result from girls and women having very restricted opportunities in the KSA. These restricted opportunities are internalized by young girls, often coming to confuse what they become in reality with the way things were ‘meant to be’ rather than the product of an unjust social system.

Our struggle for equality and social justice as women in Saudi Arabia, therefore, is central to my professional as well as personal identity and I hope to be accepted to your competitive program at Berkeley partly on the merits of my great passion for the civil and human rights of women in Saudi Arabia. I hope to excel in your Master in Development Practice Program at XXXX in the area of the empowerment of women, researching and writing about Saudi women as much as possible so that I will be adequately prepared to publish in this area in the future in the areas of women in workforce development, entrepreneurial training, in addition to educational access and the way in which it is related to human rights and economic justice.

My sisters and I have never accepted the Saudi way of thinking about issues of gender and sexuality. In the KSA, when a woman gets harassed on the street or at the mall, many people tend to see it as her own fault because she was walking alone rather than with a male relative and/or not covering her face. For us, this is ridiculous, a great indignity for women, and we have suffered and rebelled our entire lives. What inspires me to move forward and to continue to militate for social change in the area of female empowerment is that the world is on the side of Saudi women, not the unjust system, and I hope to make the most of this solidarity at XXXX and put it to good use when I return to my country.

I am most pleased that my personal history includes intensive professional experience in the area in which I hope to study since I had the privilege of completing a graduate development program sponsored by Banque Saudi Faransi, where I was rotated across a variety of key functions in the bank, learning to think creatively about banking and development and becoming highly competent across basic banking disciplines.  This experience helps to prepare me for a lifetime of service on behalf of the advancement of Saudi women. The solidarity that is generated with our cause is applicable to Muslim women in general, many of whom also face repression in their home countries, places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran. And I look forward to studying their stories as well as part of my XXXX experience. All of us together, we hope, will be able to earn the opportunity in the future to show how well we can perform alongside men as full partners in the struggle for development.

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MSc Development Studies programme

The two-year MPhil in Development Studies

One needs to have experience in the trenches to be able to understand the complex nature of the issues facing women in the KSA, and to be credible when tackling the ideas found in the big picture of what is taking place in the march towards the cultural and political development of our society. I ask you to take into consideration the way that I excelled in the final year of my studies, which accurately demonstrates my ability and to forgive me for my poor performance in my early undergraduate years when I still lacked dedication and focus. Finally, I ask you to take my volunteer work into consideration in your decision, especially since I am convinced that it will also help me to excel at Berkeley. I have served as a volunteer teacher at the XXX Diagnostic and Learning Center since 2012 as well as an organizer with the XXXX Charity Project, 2011-2012, the XXXX Charity Association 2011, the XXXX Charity Organization, 2008-2010, and King Fahad Medical City, 2008.

I thank you for your consideration.

Studying Postgraduate Development Studies at SOAS University of London

Meet Lisa, a Bachelor of Development Studies student