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Indisputably, these developments constitute a crucial aspect of Riyadh’s broader national reform agenda, as led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Within the wider regional context of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), they mark the long overdue acceleration of a trend towards improving citizen women’s participation in the economy and public life. Yet, improvement in the lives of half of the region’s citizens cannot be understood if we ignore the demographic reality that roughly 49 percent of GCC residents are foreign nationals, at least a third of whom are noncitizen women.[1] An important question is whether state policies aimed ostensibly at women’s empowerment represent an exercise in national inclusion or nationalist retreat? The answer is, “Both.”

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