Policy change marks a major step away from strict guardianship.

Women in Saudi Arabia can now open their own businesses without the the consent of a husband or male relative, as the Kingdom pushes to expand a fast-growing private sector.

The policy change announced by Saudi government on Thursday, also marks a major step away from the strict guardianship system that has ruled the country for decades.

''Women can now launch their own businesses and benefit from [governmental] e-services without having to prove consent from a guardian,'' the ministry of commerce and investment said on its site.

Under Saudi Arabia's guardianship system, women are required to present proof of permission from a male ''guardian'' - normally the husband, father or brother - to do any government paperwork, travel or enroll in classes.

The Crown-Prince pledged a ''moderate, open'' Saudi Arabia in October, breaking with *ultra conservative* clerics in favor of an image catering to foreign investors and  Saudi youth.

Prince Mohammed is widely seen as the chief architect behind Saudi Arabia's ''Vision 2030'' reform programme, which seeks to elevate the -

Percentage of women in the work force from 22 percent to nearly one-third.



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