Saudi Arabia Girls Council
Only men were pictured on stage at the Girls Council meeting Twitter

Saudi Arabia has held its very first meeting of the all-new Girls Council in the country's al-Qassim province – a progressive move for a country in which women face many restrictions in their public life.

But images of the meeting have garnered criticism for one key reason – women and girls were absent from the stage.

The Girls Council meeting took place on Saturday and while images showed 13 men seated on stage, women only participated via video link from another room.

The conference was chaired by Prince Faisal bin Mishal bin Saud, the governor of al-Qassim province, who praised the meeting as the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia.

"In the Qassim region we look at women as sisters to men, and we feel responsible to open up more and more opportunities in all that will serve the work of women and girls," he said, as reported by the Al-Araby media outlet.

Social media users have criticised the meeting for its lack of a female presence.

"This is not a joke. I repeat, not a joke. The first meeting of the first "Girls Council" in Saudi Arabia," one user tweeted.

"Satire? Comedy? No. This is actually happening: The very first meeting of the first "Girls Council" in Saudi Arabia... with ZERO girls," another wrote.

Women's rights in Saudi Arabia are limited. The guardianship system means women are unable to obtain a passport or travel abroad without the consent of their husband or a male relative.

Dress codes are strict in the deeply Islamic country and the majority of women wear an abaya, a robe-like cloak which covers the body, and a headscarf.

Women also faced limitations in attending sports events, but the kingdom is gradually relaxing laws for women. In February, gyms across the country received licenses to open women-only areas.