Time: 09 August 2021
The new structural changes would support the success and development of the administration. (Photo/Twitter)
Abdul Hamid Al-Maliki: The first benchmark focuses on youth empowerment, as young leaders in the new organizational structure represent 90 percent of the master’s degrees and doctorates
MAKKAH: Two Saudi women have been appointed to top positions at the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques in an ambitious move to empower qualified women.
Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, the organization’s president, appointed Dr. Al-Anoud Al-Aboud and Dr. Fatima Al-Rashoud as assistants to his office on Sunday, as part of a raft of administrative changes.
Other senior positions were given to Dr. Kamelia Al-Daadi, who was appointed assistant undersecretary for women’s administrative and service affairs, Dr. Ibtehab Al-Jeaid, who was appointed vice president of libraries and scientific research, and Dr. Norah Al-Thuwaibi, who was appointed vice president for scientific, intellectual and women’s guidance affairs.
The new positions come in conjunction with a recent decision to appoint an assistant undersecretary for women’s empowerment, and alongside the recent celebration of the awarding of 20 women with master’s degrees and doctorates.
Al-Daadi told Arab News that the new structural changes would support the success and development of the administration, calling them a true reflection of a work environment full of progress, and a continuation of the Saudi leadership’s support for the General Presidency. “The responsibility is doubled when it comes to the Two Holy Mosques because they are the destination for millions of Muslims, and serving them is a matter of great honor that everyone seeks.”
She added that the ambitious strategy that the General Presidency is working on reflects the aim to increase the capacity for pilgrims in the near future, to accommodate 60,000 worshippers a day while applying the highest health and safety standards. “Everyone at the General Presidency is working on preparing integrated work methodologies and exerting all possible efforts to become a true model of institutional work, governance, quality, supporting women and establishing creative work environments, which would contribute to … development and efficiency in a short period.”
Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais appointed Dr. Al-Anoud Al-Aboud and Dr. Fatima Al-Rashoud as assistants to his office. Other senior positions were given to Dr. Kamelia Al-Daadi, who was appointed assistant undersecretary for women’s administrative and service affairs, Dr. Ibtehab Al-Jeaid, who was appointed vice president of libraries and scientific research, and Dr. Norah Al-Thuwaibi, who was appointed vice president for scientific, intellectual and women’s guidance affairs.
Abdul Hamid Al-Maliki, the deputy president for planning and developmental affairs, and assistant undersecretary for the affairs of the Grand Mosque, told Arab News that the new organizational structure has four main pillars.
“These pillars were based on several benchmarks, in light of which the General Presidency’s new organizational structure was established,” he said. “Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, has worked on promoting and consolidating these benchmarks during his tenure for over 10 years.”
According to Al-Maliki, the first benchmark focuses on youth empowerment, as young leaders in the new organizational structure represent 90 percent of the master’s degrees and doctorates. The second benchmark focuses on women’s empowerment; the third on development, technology, artificial intelligence, digital transformation, and translation.
“This will have an impact on the way the Two Holy Mosques’ message is conveyed, the operational system of the services provided at the Two Holy Mosques, governance, and performance measurement,” he explained.
“Lastly, investment, financial sustainability, privatization and the endowment funds, which will support the various programs and projects included in the General Presidency’s strategic and executive plans … towards the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030,” Al-Maliki added.
Saudi soldier Abeer Al-Rashed conducts the first ever female-led security briefing for Hajj
LONDON: Saudi soldier Abeer Al-Rashed conducted on Tuesday the first ever female-led security briefing for Hajj in which she presented security and traffic plans for the pilgrimage.
The female-led briefing was met with positive reactions on social media in Saudi Arabia and the region.
Twitter user Mohamad Matoua praised the soldier saying “God willing, may God bless you… what a confidence and a wonderful voice that distinguish the daughter of our nation, the soldierAbeer Al-Rashed, may God protect her from all evil” in a tweet.
— قناة الإخبارية (@alekhbariyatv) July 13, 2021
Meanwhile, Saeed Almordi, said that women constitute half of society, “and we are proud of her and of the women in our nation in all fields.”
— قناة الإخبارية (@alekhbariyatv) July 13, 2021
Another twitter user, Um Loulou, said: “God praise, may Allah her and give her health and wellness, we are proud of her”
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia revealed on Monday the launch of a smart card for pilgrims this year.
The card will facilitate access to pilgrims’ medical history and will be used to purchase necessities and goods during the Hajj season.
It will be the first time the technology is used to aid the pilgrimage journey.
According to the Hajj security commander, no one will be allowed to enter holy sites without a valid security permit in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus.
This article was first published in Arab News
If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link Arab News Home
Time: 09 July 2021
OIC Secretary-General Yousef Al-Othaimeen. (SPA)
Al-Othaimeen commends the unprecedented attention and time given to women issues in Saudi Arabia
OIC seeks to deliver a message to the world that the moderate Islam religion extremely values women, Al-Othaimeen says
CAIRO: OIC Secretary-General Yousef Al-Othaimeen commended the unprecedented attention and time given to women issues in Saudi Arabia during the eighth session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Ministerial Conference on Women.
Egypt hosted the conference on Thursday under the patronage of President Abdelfattah El-Sisi.
Al-Othaimeen said the conference was held at a time where women’s empowerment to take part in political, economic, social and cultural fields has become a must.
He praised the Kingdom for unlocking the full potential of women as a driving force for development across all areas of Saudi Vision 2030.
Al-Othaimeen thanked Egypt for hosting the session, which reflected the country’s concern to promote the comprehensive objectives of the OIC and strengthen the foundations of the joint Islamic work in women empowerment and other fields.
He added that the OIC seeks to deliver a message to the world that the moderate Islam religion extremely values women and considers them as an effective partner in different fields.
Time: 28 June 2021
Source by Stefanie H. Ali
On June 23, 2021 the Atlantic Council’s empowerME Initiative held a workshop featuring a keynote fireside chat with Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud, which was moderated by US Embassy Riyadh Chargé D’Affaires Martina Strong, and a panel discussion with Endeavor Saudi Arabia Managing Director Lateefa Alwaalan, 500 Startups MENA Partner Amal Dokhan, S&P Global Chief Public & Government Affairs Officer Courtney Geduldig, and UPS Vice President for Community Relations Esther Ndichu, which was moderated by empowerME Director and Resident Senior Fellow Amjad Ahmad.
This workshop was part of the Igniting Women’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Saudi Arabia program and was led by the Atlantic Council’s empowerME Initiative in partnership with the US Mission to Saudi Arabia, the American Chamber of Commerce Saudi Arabia, and Quantum Leaps. The program is bringing US entrepreneurs, experts, and business leaders together with their Saudi counterparts to build relationships, share knowledge, and develop partnership opportunities via hybrid workshops and networking sessions.
Saudi Arabia’s Changing Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Amjad Ahmad discussed the importance of more US-Saudi partnerships and knowledge sharing to bring entrepreneurs, business leaders, and experts from both countries together to promote economic prosperity, and added that “Saudi Arabia has embarked on an essential economic transition with a substantial rise in entrepreneurship and with women playing a greater role in the country’s economy.”
Martina Strong emphasized the United States’ desire to see Saudi women equipped to take full advantage of the rapid pace of change: “In today’s Saudi economy, one can sense the dynamism, the creativity, new sectors and opportunities are being generated and expanded every single day…We want to see many more women take their rightful place of leadership in the economy and across Saudi society.”
Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud emphasized that: “Vision 2030 changed everything…today, when I look at these young female entrepreneurs, the challenge isn’t regulatory anymore. The challenge isn’t really even financial anymore because the opportunities are there for financial development and support and growth. Mentorship is available. The limitation today is your dream.” She added that Vision 2030 has unlocked so many opportunities for women to not just dream but bring their dreams to fruition. “That is the profound difference” from the past, she said, and it is a “fundamental shift.”
Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud also shared an anecdote illustrating the rapid pace of change in the Kingdom and the importance of timing for a business to be successful. In 2005 when she co-founded Yibreen, a women’s gym chain, she struggled to expand it because of the legal, regulatory, and cultural environment at that time. Then, a few years ago in her role working for the Saudi General Sports Authority, she was asked to deregulate that very same sector, which has enabled women’s gyms to flourish.
Lateefa Alwaalan noted that “there is a rise of a subsector of women getting into their own businesses enabled by technology, delivery apps, and e-commerce solutions to put their innovative ideas out there and start sourcing.” She added that internet penetration and digital access is also helping.
Amal Dokhan highlighted the positive funding trajectory in the MENA region and in Saudi Arabia, with the MENA region passing the $1 billion funding mark in 2020 even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. She added that Saudi Arabia had $156 million in startup funding in 2020 and there was a 56 percent increase in startup funding in 2021 year-to-date. These trends are positive and demonstrate investor interest, Dokhan added.
Challenges for Women Entrepreneurs & Strategies to Address Them
Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud discussed an ongoing challenge for women entrepreneurs: access to funding. She noted that this is an issue not just in Saudi Arabia but worldwide, since there have been more men than women entrepreneurs historically, meaning that investors are more accustomed to funding men entrepreneurs. She urged women entrepreneurs to get advice and support on structuring and running their business to ensure their endeavors are competitive and viable.
Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud emphasized the importance of financial literacy and financial security for all women entrepreneurs to ensure that financial insecurity does not become a significant stress factor that derails a business endeavor.
Lateefa Alwaalan noted that, while more and more women are launching businesses, scaling and turning them into a sustainable venture is a challenge. Courtney Geduldig expanded on this point, stating that there has been a 72 percent increase in companies founded by women in the past few years, but scaling is not happening at the same rate in part because more venture capital funding goes to men. According to Geduldig, getting more women into venture capital firms will help address this issue since gender diversity brings diversity of thought no matter the field.
When asked about the percentage of women founders in the region, Amal Dokhan stated that approximately 14 percent of the MENA startups are women-led. She emphasized that there is not a lack of women entrepreneurs and that there are more and more every day, but there is a need for more women-led technology startups. According to a 2019 report, 16 percent of startup founders in Saudi Arabia are women.
Courtney Geduldig shared findings from research for her book: Where the Jobs Are: Entrepreneurship and the Soul of the American Economy. Challenges she discovered for women entrepreneurs in particular include: lack of financial literacy, lack of confidence, difficulties finding access to funding and access to loans, and the heavy burden of caregiving responsibilities. Geduldig emphasized that these challenges are ongoing in the United States and it would be prudent for us all to learn lessons from other countries working to address these issues. She added that there is a need for more access, guidance, and support focused on opening doors and creating a more inclusive network for women business founders.
Programs to Support Women Entrepreneurs
Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud directed women entrepreneurs to visit the Saudi Ministry of Commerce and the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises (Monshaat) websites for further resources on funding opportunities for their businesses.
Esther Ndichu pointed to corporate programs such as UPS’s work with the American Chamber of Commerce in Saudi Arabia, UPS’s recently signed memorandum of understanding with the Saudi General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) (Monshaat) to promote and engage with SMEs in Saudi Arabia, and UPS’s partnership with the International Trade Center’s SheTrades Initiative, to provide channels for women entrepreneurs around the world to access global markets. She discussed UPS’s approach to promoting SME growth around the world through three focal areas: (1) capacity building to close the gap to ensure women entrepreneurs have the skills to access global markets, such as factoring in real costs, (2) market access to bring in private sector partners, and (3) providing logistics perspectives to governments to ensure that the MENA countries’ legal and regulatory frameworks encourage women to become entrepreneurs.
Advice for Women Entrepreneurs
Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud encouraged women entrepreneurs to:
Take public speaking and debate classes and get advice from experts on core business competencies in areas where they are weak. She also challenged would-be entrepreneurs to make the case for why they are the best person to take the idea forward since having a great idea is not enough.
Move forward despite rejections and recognize that rejections and “nos” from funders help hone a business idea.
Get a job in the industry related to their business idea and learn from a person in the field and develop their concept from there.
Amal Dokhan urged women entrepreneurs to look at the gaps and find a team that complements their capabilities and ask themselves if the market for their idea is big enough to scale and has enough customers. “It’s about finding the right formula,” she added.
Amal Dokhan also underscored the importance of having the courage to speak in public and share success (and failure) stories: “I meet female entrepreneurs in different parts of the world, but something repeated in every culture is that we don’t want to be out there until we are absolutely perfect. If you get the chance, allocate maybe four times a year, every quarter, to get out there and share your story, or at least offer mentorship.” She added that storytelling is critical and makes you a role model for other would-be women and men entrepreneurs and mentoring is a great way to give back and help the next generation.
Lateefa Alwaalan emphasized the importance of surrounding yourself with the right networks because those can be enablers that help an entrepreneur find success faster. She added that it is wise to build a team of co-founders and co-investors rather than going it alone, saying: “You will face roadblocks and it is good to find people smarter than you or those who complement you to help you on this journey.”
Courtney Geduldig shared that one learning from her research with women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs in general is that they need to find opportunities for mentorship, relationship building, and insider knowledge in order to obtain not just access to finance and credit, but to leverage that access and build on it successfully.
Esther Ndichu urged women entrepreneurs to check out UPS’s Women Exporter’s Program, which provides information and builds capacity for women-led SMEs. She added that UPS has found that, in the age of tech and ecommerce, businesses can leapfrog the normal process of distribution only in the local community and go straight to global product distribution.
At the workshops, we polled attendees on the following questions related to women’s entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia. As the results below indicate, the environment for women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia is improving, but more access to support and training is still needed.
Stefanie H. Ali is deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s empowerME Initiative. Follow her @StefHausheer.
Reema Juffali will be making her first ever start at Silverstone this weekend. (Douglas Motorsport)
- Driving for Douglas Motorsport team, the 29-year-old will be taking part in the second stage of the 2021 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship
Saudi Arabian driver Reema Juffali will compete on one of motorsport’s most iconic tracks over the coming days, and the 29-year-old will pay tribute to her heritage by wearing a personalized helmet.
As part of the Douglas Motorsport team, Juffali is taking part in the second stage of the 2021 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship, where she will aim to build on her performance in the opening rounds which took place last month.
Juffali is relishing the prospect of competing at Silverstone for the very first time.
“It’s the home of British motorsport and an iconic track, so to be racing here, and hopefully putting on a good show, is very exciting for me,” she said.
“With the way the track is, the grip level gives me confidence in the car. Of all the tracks I’ve visited, this is the one I’m most excited about racing on and I can’t wait to get out there.”
Say hello to my new helmet. pic.twitter.com/EwqRKHeJKG
— Reema Juffali – ريما الجفالي (@reemajuffali) June 26, 2021
While Silverstone may be a long way from Juffali’s birthplace of Jeddah, the helmet she will wear will ensure she feels that little bit closer to home.
“I’m really excited about it and it’s been a long time coming. I wanted to incorporate a bit of myself, and Saudi, into the helmet. There is some green, and orange to represent the desert. I also have a symbol on the top, called Theeba, which is a she-wolf, and that’s something my friends used to call me when I was a teenager. I added my name in both English and Arabic.
“I came up with the base design and then I sent loads of photos to the designer,” she added. “In the past, I haven’t really liked a lot of the helmets that were designed for me, and they didn’t always go to plan. I had the same design for two years in Formula 4 so now I’m really happy with what we’ve come up with because it’s very representative of me, it feels authentic which is hugely important to me.”
Juffali’s Saudi heritage plays a pivotal role in her life and, as the country’s most high-profile female racing driver, she has a huge opportunity to inspire young women who might wish to follow in her footsteps.
“It’s very important and something extremely close to my heart,” said Juffali. “Growing up in Saudi, I didn’t have many role models in the public sphere who I could look up to, and now there are so many.“People can connect with other people who are like them and from a similar background, whether that’s a racing driver, an artist or something else entirely. I think it’s crucial to have somebody like that and I think I’m in a very fortunate position to be able to inspire youngsters.”Turning her attention back to the upcoming event, Juffali says she has left no stone unturned ahead of her return to action at the British F3 Championship.
For any professional athlete, preparation is key, and she is confident of reaping the rewards out on the track.
“It’s been good,” she says. “We’ve been trying to put in as much time as we can, whether that’s in a simulator or on a track, just so I stay fresh and get as much experience as I can prior to the race weekend,” Juffali said. “I’ve managed to do that and it’s given me that extra bit I need to come here with confidence. And it’s also important because I don’t want to come into the event feeling like I need to brush off the cobwebs. I feel like I’m ready to go, which is great.
“A top 10 finish would be great,” she added. “It depends on the conditions and what’s happening throughout the races, but for me, breaking into the top 10 would be a big win and that’s where I’d like to be. I’m feeling confident so let’s see what happens.”
This article was first published in Arab News
If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link Arab News Home
The program will help build 100 Saudi brands that are able to compete regionally and internationally. (Screenshot)
The authority invited those wishing to take part in the program to register before June 20
The program offers a one-year package of training and guidance programs
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Fashion Commission has launched the “100 Saudi Brands” program, which aims to support the business development of 100 Saudi designers and luxury brands, providing Saudi fashion products with international competitive standards.
The authority invited those wishing to take part in the program to register via the website https://saudi100brands.com before June 20.
The program offers a one-year package of training and guidance programs, and includes sessions for groups and individuals, along with virtual and physical training workshops to develop competitive business advantages in the Saudi fashion industry.
Course topics will include brand review and mentoring, training in defining brand concepts, sales performance strategies, public relations and marketing strategies, methods for finding and identifying particular clients, innovations, technology and leadership skills.
The program’s stages include activities presented to the consumer to encourage sales in the local market, the first of which will be held in Riyadh in December, the activation of electronic sales outlets in January, and a campaign targeting wholesales in order to activate international sales in February.
The program will help build 100 Saudi brands that are able to compete regionally and internationally, within the framework of the Fashion Commission to develop the fashion sector in the Kingdom in all its legislative and regulatory aspects, and to support and empower its workers, including creators and investors.
This article was first published in Arab News
If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link Arab News Home
Time: 27 May 2021
Rania Nashar, Samba Financial Group CEO, was Saudi Arabia’s first female chief executive. (File/AFP)
71 percent of MENA companies made progress on gender diversity
MENA ranked last in female representation on boards
TEXAS: Organizations in the Middle East and North Africa are among those to have made the most progress in gender distribution over the past five years, according to a survey by CEO community YPF.
In the MENA region, 71 percent of companies have made progress in this area, second only to Latin America at 73 percent, and ahead of South Asia at 68 percent, YPF said in its first Global Chief Executive Gender Equality Survey of 2,079 CEOs from 106 countries.
YPF’s sample included 23 percent female CEOs, which compares with a global figure of 5 percent, it said.
The report showed that gender inequality increases with seniority. While 39 percent of employees at respondent companies were female, 30 percent of senior management were women and 20 percent of board directors.
However, there has been considerable progress on the measure in the past five years with 24 percent reporting a “somewhat more diverse” board of directors in that time frame and 16 percent “significantly more diverse.” Among senior managers, the respective numbers are 34 percent and 18 percent.
Companies in the Middle East and North Africa have the least gender diverse boards, the survey showed. However, while just 16 percent of directors were women in the MENA region, the figure was not much better in Europe (21 percent) and the US (20 percent).
“There are a lot of things to be done to encourage the empowerment of women,” Reem Osman, CEO of Saudi German Hospital Group, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “As the data shows, having more women in the C-suite is empowering more women, giving women more senior positions and recruiting more women.”
Companies globally with women on the board are more likely than their male-led counterparts (46 percent vs. 37 percent) to offer services that help women reach the top, such as female leadership and mentoring programs, the survey showed. Almost one third of female CEOs offered flexible work arrangements at their companies compared with 21 percent for male respondents.
The biggest obstacle for CEOs in the MENA region was a lack of mentors, with 51 percent citing that as the main challenge compared with 36 percent in the rest of the world.
Time: 20 April 2021
Last December, the Kingdom held its very first Women’s Football League, with 24 teams from all over the Saudi Arabia competing for the honor of being the first side to take home the spoils of victory
RIYADH: Saudi sportswomen have come a long way in the past few years. Victories large and small have been hard-won in the past decade, and the Kingdom’s female population is showing no signs of slowing down.
Saudi women across the country are exploring new ways of being active, with some even choosing to take on their brothers at football, not knowing the opportunities that could arise from it.
One of the most notable names in Saudi sports is none other than the Kingdom’s current ambassador to the US, Princess Reema bint Bandar. Before her diplomatic engagement, Princess Reema served as the General Sports Authority’s (GSA) deputy of planning and development, where she led diversity and inclusion, the development of the Kingdom’s sports economy, and strategic partnerships.
Last December, the Kingdom held its very first Women’s Football League, with 24 teams from all over the Saudi Arabia competing for the honor of being the first side to take home the spoils of victory.
And last Monday, Saudi women in sport gained yet another victory as one of their own landed the sponsorship deal of a lifetime. Adidas announced that the company had signed Jeddah Eagles’ midfielder Farah Jefry as a brand ambassador, making her the first Saudi sportswoman to represent it in the Middle East.
Jefry, 18, who started playing football a decade ago, told Arab News she had always dreamt of playing professionally, and that being singled out by Adidas to represent the German sports brand was a great honor.
“Adidas is such a well-known company, and I’m happy to be part of the family. Hopefully, this will pave the way for other Saudi female footballers in the future,” she said of the appointment.
Don’t be discouraged by people or opinions — there might be some obstacles, but at the end it is all worth it.
Farah Jefry, Jeddah Eagles’ midfielder
For Jefry, reaching this point in her career was not always easy, even if she had known she wanted to play since she was a child.
“I have been training with the Jeddah Eagles Ladies’ Football Club for almost 3 years,” she said. “At first it was tough because I was one of the youngest members on the team and playing with people who were a lot more experienced compared to me.”
However, Jefry took the experience as an opportunity to learn from the team’s older members, in addition to practicing at home to improve her basic skills.
“It has become a lifestyle now, and walking around with a football all day is normal for me nowadays,” she said.
According to Jefry, the hardest part of being a professional footballer is maintaining consistency, another reason she believes it important to practice as much as possible.
Jefry also counts herself lucky to have a great support system in the form of her family and friends, and says that those closest to her have always known how badly she wanted to play football at a professional level, doing whatever they could to help her make that dream a reality.
However, she says that she has had to deal with her fair share of critics, particularly those who think that there is no room for women in the sport.
“Many people keep telling me that this sport isn’t for women. However, the way I view it is that this sport isn’t for a specific gender; just like any other sport, at the end of the day I’m doing what I love and I shouldn’t be judged based on the fact that I am a woman,” she told Arab News.
She also has advice for other Saudi girls who want to be part of what she calls a “beautiful” journey.
“Don’t be discouraged by people or opinions — there might be some obstacles, but at the end it is all worth it. If you’re passionate enough just chase your dream. Everything else will align with that sooner or later,” she said.
Time: 06 April 2021
The coronavirus disease remains a challenge for women health-wise, economically and socially. (AFP)
March is the month of women. Starting with International Women’s Day on March 8, the month also sees the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the largest UN gathering on gender equality (March 15-26), during which the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) releases its “Women in Politics” report. This year, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also marked the month with a milestone achievement: The launch of its specialized Women Development Organization (WDO).
The reports and indications presented at this year’s CSW65 highlighted some progress for women, but also reflected great concern due to some setbacks, especially as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The two-week virtual gathering — held under the theme “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls” — ended with the adoption by UN member states of the “Agreed Conclusions.” These recognize the need to significantly accelerate the pace of progress to ensure women’s full participation and leadership at all levels of decision-making in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and in the public sector. They also recognized that temporary special measures, such as quotas and increased political will, are needed as an enabling pathway to this goal.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) remains a challenge for women — health-wise, economically and socially. The Agreed Conclusions acknowledge that the pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities that perpetuate multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, as well as racism, stigmatization and xenophobia. The data shows that women have been mostly absent from COVID-19 government task forces around the world (they make up only 24 percent of the 225 task force members examined across 137 countries). Such disproportionate representation will hamper women’s recovery from the pandemic, thus prolonging their hardships, considering that COVID-19 has had a staggering impact on women — from their roles as front-line healthcare workers to the loss of jobs, particularly as the informal sector shrinks, and the alarming spike in domestic violence and the unpaid care burden, which threatens to push 47 million additional women into extreme poverty.
Meanwhile, the IPU-UN Women map of women in politics 2021, which provides global rankings of women in executive, government and parliamentary positions as of Jan. 1, shows all-time highs for the number of countries with female heads of state or heads of government (up to 22 countries from 20 last year, with Europe being the region with the most countries led by women) and the global share of women ministers, especially in Europe and the Americas. While women ministers continue to dominate the portfolios covering social, family and women’s affairs, there has been a slight increase in their share of traditionally male-led ministerial portfolios such as defense (up from 11.9 percent to 13.5 percent) and finance (from 10.1 percent to 11.5 percent), plus a significant increase in foreign affairs (from 16.8 percent to 26 percent).
However, despite the growing number of women at the highest levels of political power, widespread gender inequalities persist. Progression among women holding ministerial portfolios has slowed, with a small increase from 21.3 percent in 2020 to 21.9 percent in 2021; the number of countries with no women in government has increased from nine to 12; and only 25.5 percent of national parliamentarians are women, compared to 24.9 percent last year. The ranking of the regions in terms of the percentage of women in parliament is: The Americas (32.2 percent), Europe with the Nordic countries (30.5 percent), Europe without the Nordic countries (29.1 percent), Sub-Saharan Africa (25.1 percent), Asia (20.8 percent), the Middle East and North Africa (19.3 percent), and the Pacific (18 percent). The countries that have the highest percentage of women in parliament are Rwanda (61.3 percent), Cuba (53.4 percent) and the UAE (50 percent).
Although Saudi Arabia is among the countries that have no women in government, and the percentage of women in the Shoura Council remains at 20 percent, the Kingdom has made tremendous progress toward women’s empowerment, including making laws that eliminate discrimination against women, protect them from violence and support their full and effective participation in development at all levels. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 includes the National Transformation Program, which aimed to increase the rate of female participation in the labor market to 25 percent in 2020. This target was exceeded, with the country achieving 31 percent by the end of last year, with Saudi women assuming many leadership positions in various fields.
Meanwhile, the OIC has also gained traction on the road to female empowerment. On March 24, the Ministerial Council of the OIC’s WDO adopted its internal rules and regulations, thus setting it up to start operating. Taking off during an exceptional year, with circumstances that will have a long-term impact, the WDO has its work cut out for it. In addition to the factors highlighted in the CSW and IPU reports, women in many of the 57 member countries of the OIC (currently only 15 of them are members of the WDO) are also severely affected by conflict, instability, underdevelopment, terrorism and extremism, which not only hamper their participation in public life but also threaten their lives.
Despite the growing number of women at the highest levels of political power, widespread gender inequalities persist.
Numbers and percentages do not give the full picture and they can be misleading. More important than the number of women in parliament or their percentage in government and the portfolios they hold is the role they actually play, the contributions they make and their engagement in decision-making. Political, cultural, social and legislative barriers continue to hinder women’s full and effective participation in the development of societies worldwide. More concrete measures need to be taken at all levels of government and society that will enable women to play a more active role in decision-making.
Maha Akeel is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. Twitter: @MahaAkeel1
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view