TheFace: Abeer Al-Fouti, champion of human capital development in nonprofits

Time: August 16, 2019  

AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj
  • Conversely, when we visited our family in Madinah, although going there always gives me a great sense of pride in my heritage, I never felt completely connected

Abeer Al-Fouti I am a passionate supporter of diversity and inclusion and have spent much of my career working to support human capital development in nonprofit organizations. I have done so by closing cultural gaps and promoting acceptance both in the workplace and in the community.
Passionate about helping others, my career has been diverse and impactful. It began at the renowned Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Humanitarian City, which is one of the largest rehabilitation centers in the world. While I was there, I oversaw training, talent and career development. My success there led to an opportunity to be involved in women’s empowerment, by leading Alf Khair, a social enterprise founded by Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US.
With Alf Khair, I worked on empowering women across Saudi Arabia by helping them identify their personal and professional development goals. For me — and the women I helped — my work at Alf Khair really inspired me and those I was helping. Under my leadership, Alf Khair helped equip women across the Kingdom with the necessary tools to be productive, engaged, competent and integrated members of their communities.
I was born in the Eastern Province, in Alkhobar, and grew up in Abqaiq which is a very small town in the largest and most productive oil field in Saudi Arabia. The population is largely composed of those working for Saudi Aramco, with a large expatriate community.
Both of my parents were from the holy city of Madinah. My father was a businessman who moved from Madinah to the Eastern Province in his teens. He was a hardworking and self-made young entrepreneur who wanted to make sure that his three children had the best possible education.
I remember when going to school in Abqaiq in the late 70s, I looked and sounded different to my classmates with my skin color and western regional Hejazi accent. Many times my classmates would ask me if I was even Saudi!
Conversely, when we visited our family in Madinah, although going there always gives me a great sense of pride in my heritage, I never felt completely connected.
This helped me not just to realize the importance of acceptance and tolerance but also gave me the skills needed to build strong connections with people no matter how different they are. Another important factor was my strong family value system. I always remember my late father’s wise advice with his great emphasis on the importance of tolerance, empathy and respect for others as the key factors to leading a successful life.
Later, after my experience in working closely with disabled patients at the Humanitarian City, I gained an even greater perspective about the importance of empathy and understanding. When I married my British husband, a joining of two different cultures, our experiences inspired us to launch our company, Smile Entertainment, in 2008. We both believed that one of the most effective ways of promoting acceptance, tolerance and understanding is culture, especially when combined with humor. We created an entertainment platform dedicated to encouraging and promoting cultural dialogue through live comedy. When people laugh together, all barriers are broken down.
Currently, I am blessed to be entrusted by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal to manage the Global Initiatives arm of his foundation, Alwaleed Philanthropies, alongside a team of ten powerful Saudi women and inspiring leadership.
I am responsible for international projects, which includes women and youth empowerment, community development, disaster relief and interfaith and intercultural dialogue.
In today’s world, where the voices that call for division are very loud, I believe it is vital to invest in impactful and collaborative cultural bridging initiatives. Effective communication, understanding, and empathy are essential to overcoming cultural divide. For many years, I have worked in promoting cross-cultural understanding among different cultural, ethnic and national groups from around the world.
I now feel that these cross-cultural skills are desperately needed to better understand the “other” and bring people together which I am passionately committed to doing so.

This article was first published in Arab News

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TheFace: Fatin K. AlKahtani, co-founder of Trilogy, a center focused on the wellness of mind, body and soul

09/08/19

Fatin K. AlKahtani and her family. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)

“Support her academic career, embrace her interests and nourish her passion.” Those were the words of my late father to my husband after he asked for my hand in marriage.

I had returned from the US with a master’s degree in systems engineering and integrations with honors from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and decided to pursue my passion of teaching Saudi women the skills required for a bright future.

Growing up, I had always wanted to be a teacher, and after spending 10 years lecturing in project management and quality assurance, I decided it was time to become a certified project management professional. Once I achieved this, I launched what would become a successful project management consultancy firm.

One summer evening in 2011, my son Abdulaziz, then 3-year-old, was going through an old album and noticed a photograph of his father playing golf in college. He grabbed the photo and asked my husband if we could take him to play. We took him the following day, and we continue to take all our children — his brother Khalid and sister Sara — to the course at least three times a week.

In 2014, we decided to launch a nonprofit youth golf academy by volunteering our time to introduce this wonderful game to schools in Riyadh. Last year, we installed a golf simulator and created an indoor academy on the rooftop of our home, which today hosts tens of juniors, women and members of the Saudi national team.

Golf is a wonderful game, watching young children socialize as they play alongside experienced players on the weekends builds their confidence, teaches them humility, and is always great fun for the whole family.

In 2018, I co-founded Trilogy, a center focused on the wellness of mind, body and soul. It offers a range of classes in meditation, yoga, Pilates, in addition to customized personal fitness training and nutrition plans. It also provides accreditation programs for Saudi females who are interested in pursuing careers as trainers, and acts as a platform for qualified trainers to showcase their skills to our members.

My husband and wonderful family have fulfilled my father’s promise by not only supporting my academic career while embracing my interests, they have also opened my eyes to new passions and challenges. I am truly blessed to be living a happy and fulfilling life alongside my family and feel obliged to provide some advice: Allow your children to be the project managers of their own lives, encourage them to plan their days and always embrace their passions. Treat your children as best friends and allow them to bring out the child in you. There is a child inside all of us and once it is unleashed, happiness is guaranteed to follow.

When I stop and look at the fast-paced social and economic changes taking place in the Kingdom, I recall the proverb “behind every great man is a woman.” The reality of Saudi Arabia today is that alongside every great woman is a man, a women, a child, and an entire nation cheering her on.

This article was first published in Arab News

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It was me! The Saudi woman in the frame for a photo that went viral

Time: August 04, 2019  

The viral picture showing Munira Abdullah hugging a giant portrait of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (Supplied photo)
  • Munira Abdullah fields comments on social media from other Saudi women who say she has summed up exactly how they feel

When Munira Abdullah went to bed on Thursday night she was just another one of many Saudi women newly empowered and independent because of a raft of amendments to the Kingdom’s laws.

By the time she woke up on Friday morning she was an internet sensation — thanks to a photo snapped on the spur of the moment in a Riyadh cinema foyer.

The picture shows Munira hugging a giant portrait of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and perfectly captured the emotions of many Saudi women in the wake of the new legal amendments.

“What drove me to have this picture taken is my admiration and deep gratitude toward the crown prince,” Munira, 30, an education technology resources specialist from Taif, told Arab News.

“There was no planning,” she said. “I went to watch a movie at the cinema in Al-Qasr Mall for the first time in my life, and I was very happy and grateful.

“On my way out, I saw the portrait and rushed to hug it, and my sister took the picture and documented these beautiful emotions.”

The photo not only took Twitter by storm, it also made the front page of Arab News on Saturday. Now Munira is fielding a barrage of comments on social media from other women who say she has summed up exactly how they feel.

“They all say, ‘Thank you for conveying our emotions about the crown prince’,” she said.

“I feel gratitude and joy for their joy too and I continue to reply to them to this day.”

The legal changes, announced by royal decree, strengthen women’s rights in the areas of labor, travel, social insurance and civil status, and reduce the role of male guardians.

This article was first published in Arab News

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TheFace: Lamya Al-Fozan, leading female figure in finance

Time: August 02, 2019  

Lamya Al-Fozan, front right, with her father Dr. Mohammed Al-Fozan, sisters Khawlah, front, Al-Zahra, back right, and her mother mother Hussah Al-Megbel and brother Nasser. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)

My family comprises six members, all representing the eagerness and determination of the Saudi dream. Our story begins with my father, Dr. Mohammed Al-Fozan, who decided to defy his lack of proficiency of English and seek a doctorate in finance from a leading university in the US. He started a family with his wife, Hussah Al-Megbel, who had a passion for the arts and social studies. They later returned from America and served as academics in their home country, before pursuing careers in consulting as well as managing private businesses.

My name is Lamya and I am their eldest child. I have worked hard to become a leading female figure in finance. I was able to reach my position in a time when it was rare for women to hold key roles in the industry. I am a driven professional who loves to inspire others and make a difference in my community. Finance has been my profession for the last 15 years, where I have consistently challenged myself by acquiring qualifications and continuing to attend education while working.

My sister Khawlah was a key marketing professional for one of the Kingdom’s leading banks. She has since started a new post as marketing director for a leading food and beverage company. Khawlah has a passion for building and growing brands. She is a proficient marketer and strategist with over 10 years of experience. She loves being part of a growing brand and making it stand out through the development of innovative strategies.

Al-Zahra, Khawlah’s twin sister, is a financial markets professional in the field of treasury, investment and market risk. She has also paved the way for other women in her field to follow in her inspiring footsteps.

Last but not least is my brother Nasser, named after his grandfather, who is as driven and outspoken as him and just as determined to succeed. He has an eye for detail and is a force to be reckoned with in the industrial development industry, through his role as a key credit professional with a major government entity.

This article was first published in Arab News

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TheFace: Somaya Badr, founder and GM of Saudi Arabia’s Art of Heritage group

Time: July 26, 2019

Somaya Badr (center) at her house with her husband and daughter. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
  • Art of Heritage trains disabled Saudi women as handicraft artisans
  • It succeeded the Heritage Center of the Al Nahda Philanthropic Society

I grew up in a family of academics and scientists. My father and mother are university professors in hydrology and analytical chemistry respectively, and my siblings all come from scientific backgrounds. I was the odd one out with my passion for culture, society and art, and ended up studying economics and political science.

While I did not share the specific interests of my family, I learned from them the love of hard work and constant self-improvement, as well as a passion to excel and innovate in my specialization. When I started to work, I was lucky to be able to engage in the field that was closest to my heart: Culture and handicrafts.

After years of experience in both for-profit and nonprofit institutions, I was able to establish and direct Art of Heritage (AOH), which replaced Al-Nahda Heritage Center as the public marketing and retail arm of Saudi Arabia’s oldest women’s philanthropic organization when the charity shifted its focus to core educational values and women’s issues.

I realized that not only could I educate future generations about their heritage, but that I could also support marginalized groups to transform from being totally dependent to being confident and productive members of society.

My passion for using cultural heritage to improve the lives of marginalized women, and my belief in the importance of conservation, are linked to my strong belief in the need for further advanced study and inquiry in the cultural field.

AOH trains disabled Saudi women as handicraft artisans, enabling them to acquire unique and valuable skills and become independent. Every day when I see these girls overcoming their challenges to produce high-quality work, my hope is renewed and my motivation is strengthened to give my absolute best.

I have always believed in the importance of having a purpose and a career, and in continuing to broaden my horizons and knowledge. I have proudly raised my children to value these principles, and to be independent and open to different cultures. My husband has strongly supported me and our children and encouraged me to work, travel and continue my education.

My daughter just graduated from medical school, and my son is studying in the US. I taught my children the importance of working in a field they love, because this is what will enable them to innovate and excel.

From the scale of my small family to the scale of the country as a whole, I strongly believe that we have to learn how to listen to young people and support their out-of-the-box thinking in creating their future. Doing this will instil the capacity in each member of society to be an ambassador for their country through their confidence in their heritage and their engagement with the wider world.

I have brought these same principles to my work at AOH. For example, AOH cooperates with well-known international fashion designers in order to create a fashion line inspired by traditional Saudi dress. Furthermore, we are working to conserve and share the rich Saudi material cultural heritage by establishing an extensive collection of artifacts, jewelry and clothing.

There is an enthusiasm in Saudi Arabia for progressive thinking, and for meeting the challenges and opportunities of globalization with a modern and authentic self.

Recently, we have been able to bring our work to both local and international audiences through collaborative exhibitions such as “Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam” with the British Museum, “Design Crossroads: Jewelry from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” with the Bahrain National Museum, and “Hidden Treasures: Jewelry from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” with L’Ecole Van Cleef and Arpels in Dubai’s Design District.

My passion for using cultural heritage to improve the lives of marginalized women, and my belief in the importance of conservation, are linked to my strong belief in the need for further advanced study and inquiry in the cultural field. To that end, I have personally worked with the School of Oriental and African Studies in London to organize a two-year pre-Ph.D. program on Saudi tribal embroidery and dress patterns.

I am very optimistic about the Kingdom’s future, and I believe that what is to come will only be better and better. There is an enthusiasm in Saudi Arabia for progressive thinking, and for meeting the challenges and opportunities of globalization with a modern and authentic self. Not only are we challenging outside stereotypes about our culture and region, but women and youth truly have more of a voice, and have been invited to participate in all areas of life.

With the Vision 2030 reform plan supported by increased opportunities for women, and with a newly established Ministry of Culture, new groups will be able to understand their cultural heritage and participate in enriching it. Through the values I have instilled within my family and the ones I demonstrate in my professional life, I hope to continue to support this hopeful vision for our shared future.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Princess becomes first Saudi woman to head sports club

Time: July 22, 2019  

Princess Nourah bint Saad chose to invest in Umbrian football club Spoleto after considering several aspects. (Photo/Social Media)
  • Princess Nourah thanked her hosts for the hospitality and outlined her ambitions for the team’s future

RIYADH: Princess Nourah bint Saad has officially become the first Saudi woman to be president of a sports club. Italian news outlet Corriere Della Sera reported recently that the princess had successfully acquired the Umbrian football club Spoleto.

Speaking at a press conference, the princess thanked her hosts for the hospitality and outlined her ambitions for the team’s future.

“Football is a family passion, and Italian football is followed all over the world. This is why I chose to invest in Umbria,” she said.

Princess Nourah chose the team after considering several aspects. “Spoleto is a small, amateur football organization where it is possible to work with the aim of growing and aiming for promotion. But we cannot fail to consider the value and beauty of the city of Spoleto, which is famous throughout the world.” Spoleto is a member of Serie D of the Italian non-professional football association, Lega Nazionale Dilettanti.  The association represents more than 12,000 football players and 400 football teams across Italy and is considered the fourth-ranked league in the country. Under the princess’s presidency, the team aims to ascend to Serie C in the near future, and further in the long term.

Spoleto announced that they have formally registered for the Excellence Umbria 2019/2020 championship and the Regional Junior Championship 2019/2020.

This purchase marks the Saudi royal family’s second venture into sports club ownership. Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad co-owns English Premier League football club Sheffield United.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Princess Reema meets US treasury chief Steven Mnuchin

18/07/19

Saudi Ambassador to the United States Princess Reema bint Bandar meets with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. (Twitter @SaudiEmbassyUSA)

DUBAI: Newly appointed Saudi Ambassador to the United States Princess Reema bint Bandar met with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss opportunities to further strengthen the countries’ partnership.

The Saudi Arabian embassy in the US, in a tweet, said the two senior officials explored “ways to strengthen Saudi Arabia’s close partnership with the United States on countering the financing of terrorism, as well as US support for the Kingdom’s economic reforms.”

 

Saudi Embassy

@SaudiEmbassyUSA

HRH Ambassador @rbalsaud met with Treasury Secretary @stevenmnuchin1 to explore ways to strengthen Saudi Arabia’s close partnership with the United States on countering the financing of terrorism, as well as U.S support for the Kingdom’s economic reforms. @USTreasury

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Princess Reema, who assumed her new office on July 4, earlier met with US President Donald Trump to present her credentials as the Kingdom’s top diplomat in Washington.

Princess Reema became the Kingdom’s first female ambassador after being nominated to the post on February 23 – to replace Prince Khaled bin Salman who was appointed deputy defense minister – and took her oath before King Salman in Riyadh in April.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Princess Lamia bint Majid Al-Saud, champion of Generation Unlimited

Time: July 15, 2019

Princess Lamia bint Majid Al-Saud

Princess Lamia bint Majid Al-Saud has been appointed a champion of Generation Unlimited, a global partnership that aims to boost the productivity of young people.

Launched in 2018, Generation Unlimited is a partnership hosted by UNICEF to connect secondary-age students with employment and entrepreneurship, empowering young people to thrive in the world of work.

Using her leading role and widespread experience, Princess Lamia will focus on generating private sector support and advocating programs that develop young people.

Princess Lamia is also the secretary-general of Alwaleed Philanthropies and is a member of its board of trustees. She also worked as executive manager of media and communications at Alwaleed Philanthropies between 2014 and 2016.

She has a bachelor’s degree in public relations, marketing and advertising from Misr International University in Cairo, Egypt.

In 2003, the princess founded Sada Al-Arab, a publishing company operating from Cairo, Beirut and Dubai.

She also co-founded Media Codes Ltd. in Egypt and the Fortune Media Group in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

She was editor in chief of Rotana magazine between 2004 and 2006. She held the same position at Mada magazine between 2002 and 2008.

In 2017, she was awarded the prestigious Arab Women’s Award for her charitable work.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Princess Reema bint Bandar: Walking in her father’s footsteps

Time: July 13, 2019  

This combination picture shows Prince Bandar bin Sultan (left) at his office in the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington D.C. 35 years ago, and his daughter, Princess Reema bint Bandar, on her assumption of the post on July 4, 2019. (Supplied photo)
  • Sworn in as Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat to the US on April 16, Princess Reema is the Kingdom’s first female ambassador
  • Some 35 years earlier, her father performed the same oath, holding the prestigious post from 1984-2005

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US, Princess Reema bint Bandar, caused a stir on social media after an image of her standing in her new office in Washington DC became public, taken in the same office as was occupied by her father, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, 35 years ago.

The prince had a similar portrait taken of himself when he was appointed ambassador, and many Twitter and Instagram users reposted the two images side by side. Some commented on how the newly appointed ambassador was “walking in her father’s footsteps” with one adding “like father, like daughter.” Young Saudis continued to repost the images with messages of good luck, as the ambassador started her new role.

Prominent Saudi writer Hussein Shobokshi wrote: “Her father’s daughter … Ambassador Rima bint Bandar bin Sultan.”

@HSajwanization tweeted: “Stunning portrait of Princess Reema bint Bandar AlSaud @rbalsaud, Saudi ambassador to the USA in her new office in Washington. Almost 40 years ago, her father, Prince Bandar bin Sultan AlSaud, former Saudi ambassador to the USA, took exactly the same picture.”

@Fatimafahad90 tweeted one of Princess Reema’s quotes, alongside her picture: “Saudi Ambassador to the US Princess Reema Bint Bandar: ‘Financial literacy is key to empower women.’”

@im_lama_ tweeted: “‘We are not working for anyone outside this nation, we are working for this nation.’ (Princess Reema Bint Bandar)”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Financial literacy is key to women’s liberty, Princess Reema bint Bandar says

10/07/19

Saudi Ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar was taking part in the Rockefeller Foundation campaign. (The Rockefeller Foundation)

  • “My goal is to educate women on financial literacy,” the Saudi diplomat said
  • “I truly believe that liberty for a woman comes from the ability to make the financial decisions for her life”

DUBAI: Financial literacy and self-sufficiency can empower women in many ways, Saudi Ambassador to the US, Princess Reema bint Bandar said in a video campaign by the Rockefeller Foundation.

“Today more and more women are entering the workplace, but they still don’t have the education to make the correct financial decisions for themselves,” she explained.

The princess was appearing in video released on Tuesday, as part of the Rockefeller’s “Solvable” campaign, involving experts and leaders from all around the world talk about a specific issue they are passionate about, and what they are doing to solve it.

She said that during her time in retail, many of her female employees would approach her about their financial issues, prompting her to realize that something had to be done “to give women access to the right tools and training” to overcome these problems.

“My goal is to educate women on financial literacy,” the Saudi diplomat said, talking about Alf Khair, a social enterprise she founded in 2013 to “educate, train, and develop the skills” of Saudis.

At the organization, they teach women how to be self-sufficient through workshops and seminars.

“I truly believe that liberty for a woman comes from the ability to make the financial decisions for her life,” she said.

Princess Reema is the Kingdom’s first female ambassador, and had been the vice president of women’s affairs at the General Sports Authority before her appointment. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in museum studies from George Washington University.

Watch the video here:

This article was first published in Arab News

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