Hijab wearing woman
[Representational Image].Reuters

Saudi Arabia celebrated its first Women's Day during a three-day gathering at King Fahd Cultural Centre in the capital of Riyadh. It comes as a big surprise from an Islamic kingdom that's ultra-conservative and where women are not allowed to have many liberties like driving a car.

The three-day gathering featured speakers, who talked about women's rights in the Saudi kingdom and advocated an end to the prevalent male guardianship system in the country.

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Reports state that the female members of the Saudi royal family also attended the event and Princess Al-Jawhara bint Fahd Al-Saud hosted a discussion on women's roles in education.

"We want to celebrate the Saudi woman and her successful role, and remind people of her achievements in education, culture, medicine, literature and other areas," Mohammed Al-Saif, a spokesman for the centre, told Arab News.

The country has a bad reputation when it comes to women's rights. Saudi Arabia ranked 134 out of 145 countries for gender equality last year, according to World Economic Forum's 2015 Global Gender Gap report. It is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive any vehicle and cannot get a driving licence.

The law says that all women must have a male guardian who can give them permission to travel abroad, to study and even to marry. They cannot do any of these things without male guidance.

According to a Human Rights Watch report on male guardianship, woman's life is controlled by a man from birth until death in Saudi Arabia. Women have fought long and hard in the country for their rights and there have been limited reforms to the outdated laws over the years to reduce the male control over women.

The reforms from 2009 to 2013 allowed women to work without seeking any male's permission and made domestic abuse an offence, the report stated.