Lesson Plans

Women Learning and Practicing Law in Saudi Arabia

The guardianship system gives a woman a legal status resembling that of a minor.
Illustration by Eiko Ojala/The New Yorker.


1. Take out a piece of paper or open your laptop and answer the following questions

  • What do you want to do as a career?
  • What would you need to do in order to work in this field? (For example, go to graduate school, complete an apprenticeship, or pass a licensing exam.)
  • What barriers exist that would prevent you from joining your chosen profession?

2. As a class, share your responses.

3. Are there any commonalties in the responses? Any differences?

Introducing the Lesson: "Saudi Arabi: Sisters in Law"

1. You are going to learn about the emergence of women lawyers in Saudi Arabia.

2. Read Katherine Zoepf’s story “Saudi Arabia: Sisters in Law.” It is available in the resource section of the lesson plan.

3. As you read, be sure to take notes and record your impressions and thoughts.


1. Create a timeline of events from the article.

  • Do additional research online to learn more about important dates and find information about women’s education and work in Saudi Arabia.
  • One source that might be useful is Katherine Zoepf’s reporting project on Saudi women working in retail.

2. Next, create a concept map or bubble map of who and what impacted or impacts the decisions to:

  • Allow women to attend law school
  • Allow women to practice law
  • Allow women to learn about their legal rights


As a class, discuss:

  • What cultural, political, and religious factors led to Saudi women being barred from practicing law in the past?
  • Why are women lawyers allowed to practice law now?
  • What challenges do they face?
  • According to the article, what are the different reasons that Saudi women are studying law?
  • What gender inequalities still exist in Saudi Arabia? How do women lawyers there think those can be addressed?
  • Does any part of Saudi culture or laws remind you of American culture or laws? What are the similarities and differences?

Extension Activity:

1. To learn more about women lawyers in your area, conduct interviews with local female attorneys.

2. Divide into groups of 4 or 5 students and identify a woman lawyer who is willing to talk to you about her career.

  • When contacting an attorney by email, letter, or phone, make sure you use formal and courteous language.
  • Before you meet or speak with her, decide what you want to learn from her and create a list of questions. For example, you might want to ask about why she decided to become a lawyer, what type of law she practices, or what type of training she had to do.
  • Be sure to ask your interviewee if she has experienced any challenges due to her gender.

3. Present your findings to the class and discuss what it is like being a woman lawyer in your area based on the interviews. What are the similarities and differences to the experiences of Saudi women lawyers?

Educator Notes: 


Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.


Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.


Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Students might note that systemic racism, sexism, and classism could stand in the way of achieving their dreams. If they bring it up, make sure to incorporate that into the discussion of the article. If they do not, you could talk about it during discussion. This highlights that while employers are not allowed to discriminate due to EEOC laws in the U.S., there are still biases that lead to employment inequalities such as the gender wage gap.

The article is available on the Pulitzer Center website or on the New Yorker website.

These activities can be done as a class or you could divide the students into groups.

Remind students that most Saudis do not want to completely change their government and traditions. According to Zoepf’s reporting, many women lawyers see inequality as an education problem, not a legal problem. Most of these women do not want tear down the system but rather work within it to ensure that women know their legal rights.

Extension Activity:
There are many different ways that students can find women lawyers who will talk with them about their careers. You could check in with the local bar association (many places have a women’s bar association in addition to a general one), law school, or law firms. You may want to get in contact with these organizations first and identify a point person that students can contact.

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