Saudi Arabia: Completing Preparation of Human Rights National Strategy

Time: April 27, 2018

Nasser al-Shahrani of Human Rights Commission asserted that his country is undergoing huge development in legal and organizational fields related to human rights, including: justice, criminal justice, reinforcing integrity, combating corruption, fighting race discrimination, women and children rights as well as rights of physically disabled people, elderlies and in-going labor and reinforcing regional and international cooperation in human rights sector.

Shahrani said in his speech delivered in a meeting in Geneva that the work is ongoing to complete the preparation of the project of national strategy for human rights and its executive plan that focuses on six axes and issues more than 100 initiatives.

The country, under the leadership of Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz, is undergoing comprehensive reforms and continuous development within the framework of Saudi Vision 2030, noted Shahrani. The Saudi official affirmed that the exerted efforts in the context of protecting and reinforcing human rights without any discrimination have led to several updates in various fields, on top of them: rights of women, health, education and laborers.

He lauded the launching of five programs that aim at empowering women, especially those who are most in need, and increasing their participation in the labor market.

In the matter of spreading the culture of human rights, several training activities were held in cooperation with Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

He noted that King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue was established. On the international level, the Saudi official tackled the kingdom’s dialogue initiative among religions and cultures, as well as the establishment of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.

This article was first published ASHARQ AL-AWSAT

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Saudi Arabia says healthcare to remain free after privatisation

Time: April 26, 2018

The Ministry of Health in Riyadh announced on Wednesday that Saudi citizens will continue to receive free healthcare despite a programme which will see the health sector move into private hands.

“The privatisation of the health sector has important foundations that cannot be changed, such as free healthcare for citizens and ensuring service quality and efficiency,” said the ministry.

Citizens of Saudi Arabia currently receive free healthcare in public hospitals. On Tuesday, the Saudi Council of Economic and Development Affairs approved a plan to implement the Privatisation Programme to sell government assets for $9.3-$10.7 billion by 2020.

The health sector is one of ten to be privatised as part of the kingdom’s Vision 2030, which aims at the diversification of the country’s sources of revenue.

 This article was first published Middle East Monitor

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4 things you didn’t know about Saudi women’s rights

April 25, 2018

  • Since the launch of Saudi Vision 2030, the Saudi Justice ministry has addressed all flaws in the system that prevented women from living their lives securely and free from unnecessary hassles
  • No marriage agreement is accepted unless a woman provides a written approval, even if her guardian is her father

JEDDAH: Despite the great steps taken by the Saudi Ministry of Justice to give women a freer and more secure life, many Saudi women still do not have enough knowledge of their rights.

Therefore, the ministry has started a campaign in cities all over the Kingdom to spread awareness among women of their legal rights. A female-only staff runs public exhibitions to enlighten them about how they are protected in different areas so they can lead their lives in a better way.

“We are using every possible channel to communicate with women to enlighten them about their rights, support them in all aspects to assure their ability to enjoy a secure rightful life,” said Majed Alkhamis, head of media and communication at the Ministry of Justice.

Since the launch of Saudi Vision 2030, the ministry has addressed all flaws in the system that prevented women from living their lives securely and free from unnecessary hassles. Despite all the obstacles, the ministry has succeeded in several areas.

A wife’s rights

The system not only grants the woman the right to sue her husband or ex-husband for alimony or acknowledgment of paternity, but it also allows any women legally living on Saudi soil, regardless of her citizenship or religion, to prosecute her current or former husband even if he is outside Saudi Arabia at the time of the lawsuit. Moreover, the new systems now support divorced women to a whole new level. For example, the system gives priority to a woman’s alimony over her husband’s personal debts.

Marriage agreements

No marriage agreement is accepted unless a woman provides a written approval, even if her guardian is her father. This arrangement grants a woman the freedom to accept a marriage proposal without any influence or coercion. In addition, if a woman is not happy with her marriage, she is free to leave the house of marriage and walk out of the agreement with no law to force her to come back. If she chooses to abandon the marriage her right to alimony will be dropped, but she is still entitled to custody of the children.

No delays

The Ministry of Justice has designed a full female service within its courthouses.

These services include advisory people who provide free consultations on everything. In addition, these departments support women at all stages up until the execution of any court order to avoid delays and procrastination.

Speedy justice

The law emphasizes the speedy execution of justice in women-related cases.

This article was first published by Arab News

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Where We Are Going Today: House Zofi — showcasing the best Arabic popular culture entertainment content

April 20, 2018

JEDDAH: House Zofi offers podcasts and an Arabic audiovisual reference library on pop culture under the motto “Where Heroes are Reborn.”

Its YouTube reference library focuses on music, fantasy and fiction. It has a mission to spread knowledge about pop culture in Arab countries and to showcase the best Arabic popular culture entertainment content.

House Zofi began as a forum for light-hearted discussion and fun debate between friends, but as the popularity of its podcasts grew, so did the vision of providing quality entertainment and discussion with the audience.

Pop culture has always been popular in the Arabian Gulf and House Zofi sees value in providing these discussions and catering to the audiences’ interests. One House Zofi motto is that “old is gold”, and its target audience is all age groups. If you are into discussing books, video games, anime, movies, music or board games in a fun environment, House Zofi has content for you.

The podcast recording studio opens Monday-Wednesday from 4:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and Sundays from 4:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. House Zofi content can be found online at Housezofi.com and podcasts are available at soundcloud.com/housezofi

Location: Al-Basteen Dist., Jeddah

This article was first published in Arab News

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Dr. Lama S. Taher, the successful fashion designer whose one dream was not enough

Time: April 20, 2018

I was born and raised in Riyadh and moved to London in 2004 to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree, followed by a Master’s degree in Mental Health.

Eight years ago, when I started on my Ph.D. in Psychology, I felt compelled to go into fashion design. Armed with grit, perseverance and passion, I took the plunge and launched my own brand, LUM, in May 2010.

I had no financial assistance and no fancy business plans — but I believed in it. No one else did, except my older sister who stood by me.

In spite of its humble beginning, the brand was well-received in the Kingdom and the Gulf region. But my father, a physician, was not convinced. I placed a bet with him, vowing to make substantial sales and revenue within one month. On July 1, 2013, I won that bet, making him my number one supporter.  In 2016, I achieved my academic dream, obtaining a Ph.D. in psychology at City University London.

But it was not easy. Enduring sleepless nights and homesickness, I persevered to meet high academic demands. Meanwhile, the LUM business continued to flourish.

People asked why a successful fashion designer would pursue a doctorate in psychology. I was constantly asked to pick one — but my heart was in one and my mind was in another.

Few believed I could achieve both. At times, I too doubted myself.

Today, I am an assistant professor at Dar Al Hekma University in Jeddah, supervising award-winning researchers. I am also a Saudi designer and manager of a successful fashion brand sold in the GCC, New York and Los Angeles.  I share my story to empower women to pursue their dreams, to believe in themselves, to fight for what they want.

People still ask: “Why both?”

I reply, smiling: “Because one dream was not enough.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi female drivers now in high demand by Uber, Careem

Date: 15 April 2018

 An hour after a Saudi royal decree was announced in September allowing women to drive, ride-hailing company Careem launched a campaign to recruit 100,000 female drivers in the kingdom.

Uber shortly followed pursuit launching a two-year initiative while pledging over $250,000 in order to make driving schools more accessible for women who are interested to learn how to drive and provide part-time economic opportunities for them as drivers for Uber.

Both companies hope to tap into a fairly large market in the kingdom where a lot of conservative women prefer to not ride with men whom they are not related to.

“We really see it as opening up the business more,” Anthony Khoury, Uber’s regional general manager, told the Los Angeles Times.

About 3,000 women have signed up to work as drivers with Careem, and the company has organized special women-only sessions to begin teaching them how to use their online platform.

The newspaper reported that Careem will only allow women and families to summon a female driver as some women raised concerns about being summoned to drive male customers.

“Female captains will help us provide a better service to many women who want to travel but refuse to be driven by men,’’ Careem’s co-founder and chief privacy officer, Doctor Abdallah Elyas said.

“This means that a new segment of Saudi society that does not use our services will begin (to use it) next June,” he added.

Rising market

There was worry that these apps would lose a large customer base as women would not use their services once they are able to drive themselves, but by hiring female drivers, they are expecting to gain new customers as well.

Female customers represent 80 percent of Uber’s Saudi customer base and 70 percent of business for Careem, according to CNN.

The spokesperson for the Saudi Public Transport Authority (PTA), Abdullah Al-Mutairi, said that the “same regulations governing the licensing of men who work in transportation will be applicable to women.”

“Those regulations include having a valid Saudi driving license and insurance, and being at least 20 years old,” he told the Tribune. He added that PTA also plans to hire female drivers in public transport roles “under the condition of (the women) being sufficiently trained to drive vehicles and various means of transportation, including buses.”

“Those duties include transporting female students and teachers who do not wish to drive their own vehicles, and filling other vocational opportunities that require the presence of a woman trained to drive in a qualified and secure way,” he said.

This article was first published in Al Arabiya English  

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Young Saudi women are among the most educated in the Muslim world

Time: 15 April, 2018

Young Saudi women are among the most educated in the Muslim world.Despite laws that require women to have a male guardian – a restriction that generally hampers their social mobility and access to jobs – young Saudi women are more educated than their male counterparts. As of 2010, about a third (35%) of Saudi women ages 25 to 34 held at least postsecondary degrees, compared with 28% of men, according to a Pew Research Center report. That’s a big change from previous generations. For example, only 3% of Saudi women ages 55 to 74 had gained higher education, versus 16% of men in that age group. While this recent educational progress hasn’t brought Saudi women up to the level of the U.S., for example, where 48% of women ages 25 to 34 had a postsecondary degree, Saudi Arabia is nevertheless ahead of other power brokers in the region such as Egypt (19%) and Iran (16%).

This article was first published in Pew Research

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Saudi Arabia’s first female cycle race serves US national security

Time: April 12, 2018

 

On Thursday, 47 women participated in Saudi Arabia’s first ever women-only cycle race. As the BBC reports, the event was held in Jeddah, which will also host a series of landmark cultural sites being built by the Saudi government.

But while only some of those women who requested to join the race were able to do so, this is another important moment in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s effort to move Saudi society towards modernity.

These plans include art exhibits, opera houses, museums, establishing a major film industry, and even building a super modern city called Neom.

And while it’s true that bin Salman has little time for his political opponents, the crown prince deserves U.S. support and encouragement as he unleashes his nation from Sunni Islamic fundamentalism. This is about realism and dealing with the world as it is, not as we would wish it to be.

Bin Salman’s success matters for America. Unless Saudi Arabia’s young population (at least 50-60 percent of which is under 25), are able to find pathways that benefit their own happiness and their nation’s economic and social development, America will have a big problem.

After all, in the context of systemic declines in oil prices, Saudi Arabia will become a terrorist dreamland — a land devoid of means of empowerment beyond the false offering of purpose via Islamic extremism.

In short, for reasons of morality and security, we should hope for many more female cycle races in the years ahead.

This article was first published in WASHINGTON Examiner

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How can a girl find a husband?

Time: April 11, 2018

DURING wedding parties for women, you will find university graduates and beautiful girls nervously waiting for the mothers and sisters of young men to look at them with a focused stare so that they may tell their boys about them. They will expect the looks of the mothers and sisters to end in their engagement and finally marriage.

Our homes are replete with young and beautiful girls waiting to be married but for some of them, the marriage takes a long time to come during which they may wither out or lose their good looks.

We are a society at the bottleneck whether we like it or not. We bring our children up armed with good manners and spend lavishly on their education until our daughters reach the age of marriage when we start worrying.

We do not usually find the ladder on which our daughters can climb to reach their projected husbands.

First and foremost, our girls are secluded. The boys and girls have no opportunity to know each other. There are no social means to bring them together.

Therefore the wedding parties for women are the most suitable occasions to hunt for husbands. The marriage in this case is not done directly between the boy and the girl but through the eyes of their mothers, sisters, relatives and friends..

Can you imagine that the marriage contract which is the most important contract in one’s life is done through intermediaries and not directly?

This is really amazing!!.

Let us suppose that one of the girls is lucky to be spotted by the mother or sister of the would-be husband. Other complexities will follow this step. The questions will be asked about his and her origin. Where they have come from? What is the tribe?

Our society is fighting to keep the tribe alive for no good reasons which are not commensurate with our present time.

Under the tribal barrier, the girl’s chances of getting married will dwindle by 50 percent or more. These are the fetters of the tribe which are still very much alive in our society.

Let us say a lucky girl finds a suitable husband through the eyes of his mother or sisters. Complex negotiations will ensue about the costs of marriage, the dowry, the gifts for the mother and sisters, the feasts, the house, the furniture, the honeymoon and many other issues.

There will be horrific details which are both money and time consuming. They include, among others, the trays of chocolate which may cost more than SR10,000, the wedding dress, the gowns for the mother and sisters, the type of invitation cards, the wedding party, the singer and many others until the bride and the groom reach their home.

When they do that, they would be spending their savings of three years on their honeymoon.

Since the marriage is arranged through intermediaries, the groom may only see his bride after all the marriage formalities. The couple will need time to get used to each other and to build a humanitarian relationship which usually takes a long time to construct.

This what makes the divorce rate in our society extremely high. The couple will begin their conjugal life barren of all factors of its success which are prior knowledge, love and security.

They will not have known each other better despite the first Shariah look and the telephone calls. Living together is an entirely different matter.

The society should endeavor to find more practical channels for the girls and the boys to know each other before they tie the knot. These may be government, private or charity channels which will enable the boys and girls to have a fair knowledge of each other before they come to live under one roof.

In a number of other countries, there are institutions which will look for a wife or husband for you. This means a modern matchmaking through the social media where the men and women will enter their data waiting to be matched.

According to the General Authority for Statistics (GaStat), there are 227,806 spinster women in the Kingdom. Spinsterhood is counted at the age of 32.

The important question here is: do we have quick solutions for the girls before they wither out or miss the marriage train?

Can we do something for the girls who are waiting in their homes with no freedom or guts to ask for the hand of a man whom they may like?

These girls are crying with loud voices: take us out of the bottleneck!!!

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette

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Arab women leaders take spotlight at Top CEO forum

Time: April 11, 2018

JEDDAH: The Top CEO forum has returned to King Abdullah Economic City, yet this year the scene is different.
The 2018 edition of the one-day discussion event for business leaders and experts has been preceded by a day dedicated to Arab women in industry.
“Last year, this event was a one-day forum, and I think it’s fair to say that it was a largely male-dominated affair,” said Frank Kane, master of ceremonies and Arab News senior business columnist, in the opening session of the Arab Women Forum.
Kane said that with the fast pace of change to empower women and encourage their involvement in social and economic development, it was “appropriate, no, essential” to begin the Top CEO forum with a day devoted to women’s role in business, the economy and society.
“Women here have the support, encouragement and the backing of a pragmatic leadership,” Kane said. “We hear a lot of talk in the rest of the world about the conservative backlash to the changes underway in the Kingdom, but women here have a powerful ally on their side, too.”
The first Arab Women Forum, which is co-sponsored by Arab News and the Dubai-based publisher Mediaquest, began on Tuesday.
On the opening day, the women of Arab News took to the stage at the invitation of media personality Muna AbuSulayman, who gave a welcoming address on behalf of Arab News editor-in-chief, Faisal J. Abbas, highlighting the importance of the efforts toward gender equality and women’s empowerment.
In recent months, Saudi Arabia has made major changes in line with Saudi Vision 2030 to involve more women in the workforce — and in the economic and social developments that the Kingdom is witnessing.
Vision 2030 reforms aim to increase the percentage of working women from 22 percent to 30 percent.
“In 10 months, things have accelerated … and the gender parity agenda is a fundamental one,” said Julien Hawari, co-CEO of Mediaquest, in the opening session.
“With this agenda come the creation of hope and the fostering of jobs and energy. We choose to see hope with this transformation in the region,” he said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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