In the first full-length feature film shot entirely inside Saudi Arabia, Wadjda tells the story of a 10-year-old girl living in a suburb of Riyadh, the capital. After a fight with her friend Abdullah, Wadjda sees a beautiful green bicycle for sale. She wants the bicycle desperately so that she can beat Abdullah in a race. But Wadjda's mother won't allow it, fearing repercussions from a society that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl's virtue. So Wadjda decides to try to raise the money herself. A cash prize for a Quran recitation competition at her school leads Wadjda to become a model pious girl as she devotes herself to the memorisation of Quranic verses. The Quran competition isn't going to be easy, especially for a troublemaker like Wadjda, but she is determined to fight for her dreams... with or without society's approval. Courtesy of Soda Pictures. UK theatrical release July 2013.
Women in Saudi Arabia are second-class citizens. Under the 'male guardianship system,' Saudi women need the permission of a male relative—husband, father or brother—to travel, accept employment, open a bank account, or access medical care. Human Rights Watch's research has recently looked into one aspect of this discrimination—the prohibition on Saudi women and girls from participating in sport. By documenting this discrimination in reports and through our advocacy, we helped persuade the Saudi authorities to include two women on their London Olympics team. While this represents a small but welcome step, there is still a long way to go to ensure full equality for Saudi women and girls.