Saudi Arabia is planning to develop a women-only industrial city aimed at giving females greater independence while still abiding by Sharia law.
The development, which will be built in the Eastern Province city of Hofuf, is set to open next year, according to The Guardian.
The industrial site will be designed "for women workers in environment and working conditions consistent with the privacy of women according to Islamic guidelines and regulations," the Saudi Industrial Property Authority (Modon), responsible for developing the city, said in a statement.
The city, initially proposed by a group of Saudi businesswomen, is expected to create nearly 5,000 jobs in textiles, pharmaceuticals, and food processing industries, as well as women-run firms and production lines.
"I'm sure that women can demonstrate their efficiency in many aspects and clarify the industries that best suit their interests, nature and ability," Modon's deputy director general, Saleh al-Rasheed, told the Guardian.
Planners chose the city of Hofuf because it is located near residential neighborhoods, making it easy for women to commute back and forth from the city.
The development is the first in a string of exclusively female cities planned for Saudi Arabia.
Proposals for four similar developments for women workers have been submitted.
The cities are part of Saudi Arabia's push to both expand female presence in the workplace and to replace foreign salespersons with Saudi women.
Saudi women began replacing staff in make-up and perfume stores this summer, just six months after they replaced male salespeople in lingerie shops.
Though the Saudi government has begun to promote greater financial independence for women, there is still a striking gender disparity in the Saudi workforce.
About 15 percent of Gulf kingdom's working population is believed to be comprised of women.
There is also a 23 percent gap between male and female employment in Saudi Arabia - one of the world's largest disparities, according to recent Gallup poll results obtained by arabianbusiness.com.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 12, 2012, 7:22 PM