Interview with Saudi Princess Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bandar Al Saud

Time: 07 January, 2019

“Every woman has to have the right to do what suits her and what makes her soul satisfied”.

An Introduction

Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bandar Al Saud is the granddaughter of the Late King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and Queen Effat, daughter of Prince Bandar bin Sultan (former Saudi ambassador to the United States and currently Director General of Saudi Intelligence Agency)

She is the CEO of ALFA International and AL HAMA LLC, that manages brands Donna Karan, DKNY and operates the Harvey Nichols Department Store in Riyadh.

Some of her exemplary achievements include a place in the Top 20 Arab Businesswomen in  2008 for her success with Yibreen (an exclusive women’s day spa) in 2008 and a Guinness World Record in 2010 for the World’s Largest Human Awareness chain in a campaign  to raise awareness for breast cancer.  

The Princess was also the driving force behind the campaign “A Woman’s Journey: Destination Mount Everest”, where 10 Saudi women climbed Mount Everest Base Camp to raise awareness against breast cancer, earlier this year in May.

In this exclusive feature on RiyadhConnect, we learn how HRH Princess Reema breaks the mould of the traditional Arab woman of Royal lineage and comes across to us as an inspiring symbol of humility, dignity and compassion.

The Interview

RiyadhConnect:  It is rare for Saudi women to come out and have their voices heard, especially since you are from the Royal Family. However, you have made some remarkable achievements. This in reference to the Pink Human Awareness Chain that made it to the Guinness Book of World Records and the Mount Everest campaign for breast cancer.

HRH Princess Reema: Yes, we did break the Guinness World Record with 3,952 women. Infact we had 400 volunteers that were part of the organizing committee, so we actually did break the 4000 record but because of the strict rules that Guinness had, they couldn’t be counted.

The event mainly consisted of Saudi women but were also attended by a number of international communities, which was fantastic.

We had the support of all of the embassies, many of whom flew out from Riyadh. It took place in Jeddah at the Ministry of Education Stadium and we had student volunteers from Dar Al Hekma College, Effat University and the King Abdul Aziz University. We also had the Zahra Breast Cancer Foundation volunteers supporting us.

RiyadhConnect: The Mount Everest Campaign was your idea?

HRH Princess Reema:  I’m part of the Zahra Breast Cancer foundation. In our board meetings, we try to think of creative & innovative ways to create an awareness about breast cancer and also to tell people that we are a resource to the community. This was indeed one of my ideas and it was agreed upon by the whole board of Zahra.

The idea served two mechanisms – 1: To unify women and 2:  to  let them know that we can stand shoulder to shoulder and support each other in what is a very difficult subject to discuss.Saudi is a private nation. We don’t want to talk about our body parts. So how do you gather women and speak to them about a subject that they are uncomfortable about? You bring them all together in order to try to break the stigma. That’s what we were trying to do.

RiyadhConnect: Tell us about the Mount Everest campaign.

HRH Princess Reema: Our first campaign showed that women can stand shoulder to shoulder. So if we stood, it was now time to move – thus  the concept of moving, physical fitness and health. We wanted to tell people that movement and physical fitness is very important for a healthy lifestyle. So the idea came from there.

When a woman is told she is diagnosed with cancer, she or any individual would feel its insurmountable. So the concept of something being insurmountable, something that you have to strive for to get over, that is daunting and large , all that brought to mind the idea of climbing a mountain and the largest mountain of course is Mt Everest.

So as a symbol of health and fitness, we conceptualized gathering women that were ready to be trained to be physically fit and show that if WE can conquer Everest , then YOU can conquer Breast Cancer.

So what we asked was that during the 2 weeks that we are climbing the Everest, please walk 10-15 min a day and tell us about it. Tell us where you went and tell us what you did, how long you walked, who you walked with. We were able to populate our facebook page and twitter page while doing that. We were receiving messages not only from Saudi but from all over the world, which was amazing!

What we realized on the way up the Everest is that the symptoms you feel of altitude sickness are very similar to the symptoms that a woman feels when she goes through radiation and chemotherapy – shortness of breath, exhaustion, lack of appetite, feeling extreme emotions.  So what we were actually doing is paying a tribute to these women.

RiyadhConnect: Did you personally have an experience of having someone close to you being diagnosed with breast cancer?

HRH Princess Reema:  Absolutely.  2 days after my mother asked if I would like to join the Zahra Breast Cancer Foundation, of which she is Chairwoman, I got a call from a very good friend of mine who is the same age as me, has children the same age as mine. We grew up in the US together and we moved back to Saudi together.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Almost steamrolling after her, there were others being diagnosed – it was an aunt on my mother’s side, 3 on my father’s side. A cousin from here, a friend from there. It was then I thought – this is a sign that this is something I really need to be involved with. I felt that I have to be a part of something that will spread the word among people and have them aware. This is a disease, which if you catch in the early stages, is curable.

So it’s really important for us, to get people talking about breast cancer and remove the stigma about it, and educate women on early detection,  self check etc. This is something that Zahra is really active about.We have medical groups and awareness groups within Zahra. We have directories, we give people information, we educate them, counsel them.

RiyadhConnect: What is your objective in life?

HRH Princess Reema:  My objective is to facilitate things for other people. Within my role with Zahra, I feel obliged to create these events to allow people to know about breast cancer. With my role here at Harvey Nichols and Alfa, it is my obligation to create job opportunities and let women know that there are career opportunities.

It is not just me singularly, if you look at Saudi today, there are so many amazing business women and so many networking opportunities for women. What is also interesting is that we are a word of mouth society.  We are not a mass advertising society, we are mass consumers.  If I trust you, I will tell you about something that I found wonderful. If you trust me, you will tell me about it. So it’s very much of a personal interconnected network.

So what makes what we do, so much more exciting and valid, is this silent wave of change, it’s the silent wave of movement and that’s fascinating to be a part of.  It makes me hopeful every morning, to know that the nation that my daughter is being raised in, is going to be a nation of opportunity.  That’s why I’m very happy to do what I do and honestly all I do, is that I come to work.

RiyadhConnect: Do you have a mentor? Someone who really inspires you, a role model?

HRH Princess Reema: I would say I have a series of mentors. First I would mention my mother – my mother is an example in that she managed to balance the responsibilities of her home and the life that she led very well and I try to raise my children, the way she raised us.   She always had time for us. I hope that I can take even a fraction of that and be able to apply it to my life.

My other 2 inspirational role models are my aunt Sarah al Faisal and Lulu al Faisal. Sarah al Faisal was the founder of a girls’ school – Al Tarbiya Al Islamiya,here in Saudi Arabia. She’s a woman of infinite dignity and grace, a patron in Education and a motivation to women of Saudi. My other aunt Lulu al Faisal, is the Chairwoman of the Effat University in Jeddah.

All three of them stem from one individual who is my ultimate idol, my grandmother late Effat Al-Thunayan . Her mission was to promote women’s education, to be a self sustaining individual in one’s community. She founded an organization called the Nahda Women’s Foundation and Dar Al-Hanan school in Jeddah.

RiyadhConnect: Can you tell us what keeps your positivity going?

HRH Princess Reema: What keeps my positivity going is the fact that when I look around, I see some phenomenal women in Saudi Arabia, regardless of which city you go to.

Equally inspiring is the fact that we live in the era of King Abdallah, a champion of a balanced and healthy modern Saudi society where men and women have opportunities that needn’t be the same but they are open and they are wide.

For people to be satisfied, it doesn’t mean that you give them everything but that you give them the chance that they ‘could be’ or they ‘could do’.   Today, we have this ‘Could be, Could do spirit’ in Saudi where you wake up and, you could do it. What would you like to do?  There are people out there to help you.  Whether it is NGOs or Charities or Entrepreneurial Organizations, there are so many people out there today whose mission is to help somebody else be what they want to be and I find that very inspiring.

I feel that the younger generation isn’t a generation that is about self success but about communal success  and I truly feel that there is now a sense of community.  It’s exciting and honestly that makes me feel very proud to be Saudi.

RiyadhConnect: You are basically a very successful businesswoman.  You have a clothing line, the spa Yibreen,  you were among the Top 20 Arab businesswomen in 2008.  What is your biggest ambition, and where are you on that ?

HRH Princess Reema: When you look at each of those accomplishments, the most important thing to realize is that none of them were individual efforts.  In Yibreen, I have 2 business partners and out of absolute humility from both of them, they did not put their names when we won the top businesswoman award.  So it really was myself, Al Bandari Al Faisal & Nouf Mohamad Abdalla,who are the 3 partners of Yibreen that won that award.  I just accepted it on all of our behalf.

Regarding the success that we have had at Harvey Nichols, it is absolutely team effort and a group success of which I’m very proud to be part of .

My biggest ambition from a business point of view would be, 5 years from now, when we look back at what we have achieved, it should not merely be as a retail organization but as an organization that has the best practices and the best environment for employees.  We are sincerely trying to move forward in creating that environment.

A recent survey showed us that women mainly face two problems when coming to work – Transportation and Daycare facilities for their children. So we are going to be the first department store that has an onsite daycare facility for the children of its employees – male or female.  It launches at the end of the month, Insha-Allah and I am very proud of this accomplishment.

Another thing we are trying to do is – training for all our staff, to allow them to develop career trajectories and career paths.  Today, you may have started as a sales girl but tomorrow you could be a store manager or a department manager. We really do try to bring dignity to the roles that we are offering as positions.

So when I look back, that’s how I want to measure my success – to see people that I trained or people that worked here grow out and become top in their positions at other places, to have that kind of a footprint, to also have some of our other visual merchandisers go out and create their own companies.  I would love to be a foundation for multiple careers for a future generation of retailers and that’s how I measure my success.

RiyadhConnect: What is your style of working?   Hands on/micro-manage/work on the big picture and then delegate?

HRH Princess Reema: My role as CEO of Alfa, involves growing the investments that we have or the projects that we work on.  I research, I go out, I interact, I look for projects that I can bring to the Kingdom, that may fit our portfolio.

I work with the Business Development team, we do the brainstorming, the financial capability, feasibility and  once we develop that project, we hand it over to our Retail Department and our Retail Director then takes that and launches the project.

I don’t believe in micro managing people but I believe in being present and available for them.  At the end of the day,  I’m here to be a resource to them to facilitate things.  With our senior staff, our brainstorming is weekly and with various divisions, I do sit with them, I’m constantly present.

I’m always either in the operations office, or the marketing office or the retail office or we’re all together in the meeting room.  I don’t believe in being static, I can’t be static. It’s not my nature, not to move. So I prefer to move from individual office to office than be in the meeting room and have everybody come to me.

I think you interact and engage with your staff better that way and I also think it’s important for people to know that you are present.  If you are not present in the business you are running, the business is not going to run itself.

RiyadhConnect: What are your clothing style preferences?

HRH Princess Reema: My interest in retail is more from the business side than the fashion side. I personally choose comfortable elegance, over stylish fashion. I am always on the move and travel for work a lot.

I am never going to be a trend setter. So when people are looking for style advice, I assure you they don’t come to me (laughs).

Riyadh Connect: What do you do when you have a minute to yourself ?

HRH Princess Reema: I would spend it with my kids or my friends. I enjoy being social, I enjoy my family and friends very much.  I travel a lot for work, so when I have the time to be with them, I really do enjoy it.

Riyadh Connect: Do you think women in Saudi are mistreated or oppressed?

HRH Princess Reema: From the women I know, some of them have phenomenal lives and have seized opportunities, some of them have missed opportunities and some of them are not aware of their opportunities.

I would like the women who have seized opportunities to look around and try to help someone that might not be aware of it.

I would love for the women who have been afraid to venture out and take an opportunity to feel the courage to do it.

For the women who don’t know they have opportunities, I think it’s the obligation of all of our society to let them know that should they choose to be something, then it’s a possibility.

Every woman has to have the right to do what suits her and what makes her soul satisfied and what fits in with what she is comfortable with in her community.

Riyadh Connect: We hear about Saudi women gaining more rights. More reforms are happening, slowly but there is progress. What do you think is the greatest need of the hour for Saudi women and what’s being done about it ?

HRH Princess Reema: I would say, Number 1, the dissemination of information -Women need to be informed about the opportunities that are available for them, whether they be legal or social or work  opportunities. Number 2, the transportation issue. Here in the office, we would like to employ more women, but they can’t necessarily be able to get here for work. Even if we pay them a stipend to have a driver, the logistics for them to get here from home, paying the driver, the whole motion of getting to work is not worth it to them for an entry level salary.

Riyadh Connect: Do you think women will be able to drive soon?

HRH Princess Reema: I think so.  I see it coming, when it will happen.  I have no idea, but I think it will be a positive move.

Riyadh Connect: So, would you accept a role in the government, if you were offered one?

HRH Princess Reema: No. I like the fact that I can be private. Being the daughter and grand daughter of somebody in a very public position, the time that you can be private, be yourself is very limited.

I appreciate and respect the time that every single individual has given to their country but I feel I can contribute better outside of the government, through charitable activities, through a business community, where I can create opportunities and then ultimately go home and be private. My privacy is very important to me.

Riyadh Connect:  There are thousands of  young Saudi women out there, who’d like to be in your shoes. But tell us really, is it tough being a Royal?

HRH Princess Reema: I think every person faces a challenge every day regardless of the family they were born into. Across the world, whether you are from the Royal family or not, I think there should be a level of courtesy that all individuals should behave with and interact with.

I hope to be able to represent my family well in a dignified light with the way I work and behave in the best way that I can, by being a good member of the society, a good mother to my children and by trying to give back to the community.

At the end of the day, it’s a privilege that I was born into, it was not something I created or invented. I always view it as a privilege, its words on paper. I have to do honor to the people that came before me in my family.

Riyadh Connect: What has been the single most significant or defining moment in your life?

HRH Princess Reema: We recently went up to Mt Everest as part of the breast campaign initiative and one of the most profound moments in my life was when I was walking up that mountain.

We were walking for 8 hours, sometimes 12 hours a day. We were in all sorts of harsh weather conditions, sometimes it was very grassy, or very rocky, at times it was freezing cold, it was raining, it was snowing . We really faced the ‘elements’ as you say.

We saw parts of nature that I never thought I would ever be exposed to. There was a profound solitude while walking up that mountain, because your focus is constantly on breathing, on taking the next step.

You are constantly looking down to avoid obstacles and trying to make sure you are hydrated. You are not drinking water or eating food for enjoyment, you are just trying to survive. You are trying to get from point A to point B and it is stark and simple and so far removed from anything I have ever done in my life.

That sense of solitude and isolation really made me realize how insignificant I am in this world. I was just a person trying to get up a mountain to make it home. When you look around it makes you wonder, what do you need in your life and what can you really not live without – for me, that would be my children and my family.

That was a moment of profound clarity on multiple levels for me. Who am I, what do I want in my life, what do I need for my soul to be satisfied. It was interesting and overwhelming for each of us on that journey and each of us came to a different realization going up that mountain. I realized I don’t have to do what I’m doing but I want to do it and I like to do it. So if I’m going to do it, I really should focus and do it well.

Riyadh Connect: Are there any other causes close to your heart?

HRH Princess Reema: I’m not a feminist but a feminine-ist, as in I believe in expanding opportunities for women. I don’t believe that a woman has to do everything a man does, however I do believe that a woman has very many skills that are undervalued and I would love to be part of a generation that saw a multitude of women’s skills be qualified as more valuable.

Riyadh Connect: What message would you like to give to our readers?

HRH Princess Reema: “Every life has obstacles and opportunities. Not every opportunity  is something that will get you where you need to go but it’s a step. It’s important to accept the opportunities that come your way and be able to use them to get to where you would like to go.

In your journey of life, you can either bang your head against the 3 walls around you or choose the doorway in front of you. Sometimes you might have to hop through a window, but choose the opening rather than bang your head on the wall. Make a step forward, open the door.”

This article was first published in Riyadh Connect

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Princess Reema leads Saudi delegation to Abu Dhabi event marking 100-day countdown to Special Olympics

Time: December 04, 2018

  • Saudi Arabia is sending 51 athletes to compete in the event, the first to be held in the MENA region
  • Event is a ‘wonderful opportunity’ to celebrate our athletes,’ says the deputy of planning and development for the General Sports Authority

ABU DHABI: Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud led a delegation of athletes from Saudi Arabia to the UAE as the 100-day countdown to the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 – the largest sports and humanitarian event in the world – officially began on Tuesday.
More than 7,500 athletes from 192 nations will compete in the 2019 World Games – the first to be held in the MENA region – next March. Ahead of the landmark event, Princess Reema, speaking exclusively to Arab News, said that Saudi Arabia’s strong commitment to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will mean the Kingdom will continue to focus on absorbing into society people regardless of ability.
“The Agenda for Sustainable Development pledges to ‘leave no one behind,’ but the fact is, by virtue of our heritage, the Middle East has always been an inclusive society,” said Princess Reema, the deputy of planning and development for the General Sports Authority(GSA). “The Special Olympics is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our athletes and to come together as a community.”
Sara Ahmed Felemban of Jeddah is eagerly awaiting her chance to shine at the World Games. The 17-year-old will be part of a 51-strong team of athletes from Saudi Arabia who will be landing in the UAE capital next March to show off their skills in a range of sporting competitions – and represent their country to the best of their ability.

A student at Saudi Arabia’s Help Center, a non-profit organization committed to enhancing the quality of life of individuals with intellectual disabilities, Sara was born with Down Syndrome.
“It was evident from birth,” said her mother, Bridget Somers, who spoke of her pride at her daughter’s hard work and dedication to practice ahead of the 2019 event.
Sara, who will be competing in bowling at the World Games, said she feels honored to be representing the Kingdom on the world sporting stage.
“I am very proud and I am practicing every day,” she said. “I am happy and very excited.”
The teenager has dreams of clutching a gold medal on the podium. “I hope. I hope. That would be great.”

Athletes from around the world are set to descend on Abu Dhabi in March to show-off their sporting skills. (Blue Cam Photography)

Her teammate Maan Al-Zaid, a 25-year-old from Al-Jouf region, also with Down Syndrome, is preparing himself for the basketball competitions of the Games.
“First of all, I would love to participate in all sports. I am very proud to be Saudi. I think all Saudis as champions. We are working very hard and we are working more and more to get positive results.”
And does Al-Zaid hope to also win a medal? “More than one. Definitely more than one!“
Dr. Heidi Alaudeen Alaskary, director of diversity and inclusion and partnerships at Saudi Arabia’s GSA, said the Kingdom has set up a dedicated training camp in Saudi Arabia for the team.
“We are very, very excited about our participation next March. We have a delegation across a number of different sports, be it basketball, swimming, track and field, roller-skating,” Alaskary said.
“It is a very diverse group. The overall delegation is very big too. It is not only that we are sending athletes and coaches, we are sending a number of our volunteers here to support the UAE. They include sending volunteers such as speech therapists to help support the health programs in the UAE.”
Alaskary said including those with disabilities into society has always been a key focus of decision-makers within the Kingdom. “It is very important to realize it has always been about the community, and in order for the community to shine we need to take care of all individuals; whether they are elderly, or young, whether they are able or a person with a disability; whether they are female and male – everyone is part of our community,” she said.
“And it is critical for us that for our country to thrive we have to include everyone. Ten years ago, in 2008, we signed the United Nations ratification on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and we are constantly developing and modifying the programs to support those with disabilities in the country.
“I think you can expect to see a whole spectrum of more programs going forward.”
Alaskary said of about 20 million people living in Saudi Arabia, about 1.7 million have self-declared as having either a physical or intellectual disability.
The Saudi Arabia Special Olympics delegation visited Abu Dhabi on Tuesday as part of the World Games Unified Summit to mark 100 days until the World Games, which aims to encourage people with disabilities – or “People of Determination” – into sport.
During the event, key findings of the first in-depth study examining perceptions of people with intellectual disabilities across the MENA region were revealed.
It found that about two thirds (65 percent) of those living across the Middle East and North Africa state that they are aware of government initiatives on disability, but less than half (46 percent) believe governments are highly supportive of those with disabilities.
Based on public-opinion surveys in eight countries – the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco – the study also revealed that the vast majority of people in MENA believe that people with intellectual disabilities can perform in sport. However, they are more likely to believe that they can only play as part of a team comprised of players with intellectual disabilities.

While almost eight out of 10 people (78 percent) surveyed believed that people with intellectual disabilities can form friendships with people without intellectual disabilities, less than two-thirds (62 percent) thought that those with intellectual disabilities can understand news and events around them, half (55 percent) felt they could make their own decisions, and slightly more than a third (39 percent) believed those with intellectual disabilities could handle an emergency situation.
While the full study – commissioned by the Local Organizing Committee of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 and Special Olympics MENA to get a better understanding of community attitudes toward disability – will be revealed in March next year to coincide with the Special Olympics World Games, key findings were previewed at the World Games Unified Summit.

At the event Reem Al-Hashemi, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, announced that 22 new nations have signed up for the upcoming World Games, taking the total number of programs participating to its highest ever at 192. Mohammed Abdulla Al-Junaibi, chairman of the higher committee of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, said the announcement means the Special Olympics programs “will now be accessible to thousands of people who may not have previously had access to sports opportunities. These opportunities will aid them in building courage and confidence, forging new friendships and experiencing joy.”
Dr. Sultan Al-Jaber, UAE Minister of State and CEO of ADNOC Group, said the “courage of the participating athletes will reflect the unity and inclusion that define the Special Olympics movement and are in fact a mirror image of the values of the UAE,” while Shamma bint Suhail bin Faris Al-Mazrui, UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs, said “through the power of sport, community and collaboration, the Special Olympics offers the world one of the most powerful stories of inclusion.”



100: Days until the Special Olympics World Games takes center stage in Abu Dhabi

192: Countries that will represented in the Games – a record number

14: Days that Special Olympic events will run for

7: Days of sporting events during the 2019 World Games

24: Officially sanctioned Olympic-style sports that will take place in world-class venues throughout Abu Dhabi

7,500: Athletes set to compete 

3,000: Coaches training athletes ahead of the event

20,000: Volunteers needed for the Games

400,000: Fans expected to cheer on competitors during the Games

50: Years the Special Olympics have been running


In the UAE, Clari Lehmkuhl, 28, will be the sole female tennis player representing her country. “I am very, very excited. I practice every single day at Zayed Sports City and I hope to do my country proud. I am hoping for gold.”
Gabrielle Snowden, 27, is the UAE’s female representative for golf. “I am very excited. I want to win, but mainly I just want to make lots of new friends.”
Chaica Sultan Al-Qasimi, a member of the UAE’s SEDRA Legacy Project for the Special Olympics and a black belt in karate, said the World Games will welcome the world to the UAE and the Middle East and “showcase the best in the human spirit.”
“As someone who loves sports and loves my home and country, I am deeply happy that the World Games will be hosted here in the UAE,” said Al-Qasimi, who has Down Syndrome and practices martial arts, kickboxing, Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu.
“I am honored to have been selected from to participate in the World Games next year. It is an incredible opportunity to show the world we are a unified nation that believes in equal opportunities for all.
“Ever since I discovered I have Down Syndrome, I never saw myself as someone with a disability. I want to share the message with the world that people of determination can achieve anything they want to in life.”
The World Games feature more than a week of grueling competition among thousands of athletes. Through media coverage of the Games, the stories and achievements of athletes are seen by millions of people worldwide. It will take place from March 14-16, 2019.

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


Princess Reema: Let’s give young Saudis a sporting chance

Time: November 17, 2018

Princess Reema bint Bandar said the new program set up between the General Sports Authority and Misk Foundation pledges to promote active lifestyles and to achieve excellence in sports. (Ziyad Alfaraj)
  • Collaboration with Misk Foundation will develop Saudi Arabia’s future champions
  • General Sports Authority also working getting Saudis more active, starting in school

A new initiative between the General Sports Authority (GSA) and the Misk Foundation is setting up a program to promote sporting activities across the Kingdom and further the careers of future Saudi champions. Princess Reema bint Bandar, deputy of planning and development for the GSA, sat down with Arab News on the sidelines of the Misk Global Forum this week to speak about the new collaboration.

“We are honored to work with Misk for the future of our children,” said Princess Reema, president of the GSA’s Mass Participation Federation (MPF), after signing the deal with the Misk Foundation on Wednesday. While the details have yet to be worked out, she said it will involve athletic internships and scholarships to develop Saudi Arabia’s future champions.

The initiative is in keeping with Vision 2030’s Quality of Life program, which pledges to get Saudis moving by promoting active lifestyles and to achieve excellence in sports both regionally and globally.

“Part of our mandate is to grow the amateur to elite pathway,” the princess explained. “What that means is how can we have more young people active in the community sports groups and the grassroots activations to allow them to cultivate their skills. Hopefully they then will be scouted into the more professional sports pathway.”

The collaboration with Misk will enable that to happen. “With Misk, we are so proud to say that we’ve collaborated with their actual internship program and scholarship program to expand it to the avenue of sports,” Princess Reema said. “The exciting part about it is that many sports are vocational: They’re on-the-ground training. It is not something that you learn at school. It is the passion that you have, and then the correct team and the environment help you to cultivate it.”

The agreement will also cover scholarships for athletes. As Princess Reema explained: “What’s really critical for people to understand is that an athlete’s career does have an age limitation and sometimes a physical limitation, depending on injury. One of the mandates of the sports authority is to make sure that each of these young individuals has a second career.

“Education is critical. We obviously have partnerships with the Ministry of Education, but adding Misk to our portfolio truly is a gem. As an NGO they are able to execute faster and deliver faster than government bodies.”

The deal with Misk will enable a sports track for Saudi students studying abroad. “Misk has relationships with some of the best universities across the globe, and they have got seats in each of these universities for Saudi students, both male and female. Where we wanted to collaborate with them, and we are honored that they accepted, is to allow for a sports track.”

Princess Reema moderated a panel called the Future of Sport at the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday, a day that saw two other high-profile guests, Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho and British-Pakistani boxer Amir Khan, express interest in opening training academies in Saudi Arabia.

“This is the beauty of this world,” said Princess Reema. “Amir Khan is a boxer. He has specific skills set, but he’s willing to teach the next generation. So, our partnership with Misk, which we were discussing this last night, is how we can send young people in the Kingdom to where Amir Khan is and learn from him: not just the skills of boxing, but everything that goes around the ecosystem of boxing. And also for him to help us to find the correct coaches and trainers who will come and train young people here. That is the kind of example of what this relationship with Misk can do and what it can offer this nation.”

There is a lot to be learned from high-caliber athletes, she said. “International athletes dedicate 100 percent of their time to their chosen sport. Today, while we don’t have the full ecosystem that can support them, we are developing it.”

Princess Reema also spoke of developments in the school system, particularly the introduction of physical education in girls’ schools this year, under a law passed in 2017. With an increased need for PE teachers, the GSA collaborated with the Ministry of Education on their training.

“The Ministry of Education has been proactive in the training of male and female PE teachers with new curriculums that they developed, and we were very honored to be a collaborative partner with them.”

The nature of that collaboration involves Olympic school days organized by the GSA, with 30 girls’ schools participating and a larger number expected in the future.

“As the sports authority and the Olympic committee we go in and do the training for the PE teachers, create the programming, and they come and compete inter-scholastically.”

Under Vision 2030, schools will see improvements in their facilities as well, Princess Reema said. “We have to remember that many of the schools are not equipped to have the kind of programs that the Minister of Education would like to implement. The plan is to invest in new facilities and new infrastructure. That’s going to change profoundly not only the quality of education, but also the PE that’s offered.”

As for the next Saudi female champion, Princess Reema said it’s a question everyone asks, and it deserves some patience. “A champion is not made overnight. A champion isn’t made in a year. A champion perseveres in their sport. A champion perseveres in the career of their sport.”

Her advice for young female athletes? “Whatever we can’t offer you, don’t stop and wait for someone to give it to you. The runner can run anywhere. The swimmer can swim. Focus on your sport and find your way. Call us for. help, because that is what we are here for. Even though the full structure may not be there yet, we are working in parallel with the athlete working on themselves.

“Your success is going to be a collaborative spirit, but you lead your success. We’re an enabler, but you have to lead it.”

The princess had a final word of advice for the parents of those budding athletes. “Pursue athletic activities with your children. You are the gateway to their success and you are the gateway to their exposure. Expose them to sports, expose them to physical activity, but also provide the holistic healthy lifestyle around them. The way they eat and sleep, and the way they engage with their community: You are in control of that. So allow them to have the correct foundation so when their dream truly becomes to be an athlete in sports, you have given them a foundation.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Exclusive interview with Princess Reema bint Bandar, General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia

Time: November 17, 2018      

RIYADH: A new initiative between the General Sports Authority (GSA) and the Misk Foundation is setting up a program to promote sporting activities across the Kingdom and further the careers of future Saudi champions. Princess Reema bint Bandar, deputy of planning and development for the GSA, sat down with Arab News on the sidelines of the Misk Global Forum.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Princess Reema: Investment will take Saudi eSports to next level

Time: October 25, 2018   

Saudi Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud speaks during the FII conference in Riyadh on Wednesday. (AFP)
  • Given Saudi Arabia’s large youth population, itis believed that pumping more money into this sector could give a boost to both young people and the national economy
  • An eSports federation — known formally as the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports — was launched last year

RIYADH: Greater investment in eSports would boost the Saudi economy and help young gamers better compete in the global — if virtual — arena, one of the Kingdom’s top sporting officials has said.

Princess Reema bint Bandar, of the General Sport Authority, told the Future Investment Initiative that the Saudi gaming sector is “ripe for investment” — and that extra funds could help take it to the next level.

An eSports federation — known formally as the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports — was launched last year.

Given Saudi Arabia’s large youth population, pumping more money into this sector — by, for instance, opening a gaming college or running gaming tournaments — could give a boost to both young people and the national economy, Princess Reema said.

“We truly believe that this is a sector that we can develop and grow, and is ripe for investment,” she said.

Princess Reema pointed to South Korea as a country with a healthy eSport industry.

“In South Korea, the gaming industry is probably around a $4 billion addition to the GDP … imagine if we were able
to do that here in Saudi Arabia?” she said.

“What does that look like? That looks like a gaming college or a university, that looks like gaming-training programs; investments in infrastructure and buildings that allow for these young people to not only participate in the game, but also educate others to be physically active.”

The official acknowledged that some people would need to be convinced that video gaming was actually a sport — adding that she encourages eSports to be recognized by the Olympics.

But Princess Reema said that another factor was that young people could be encouraged to do more physical activity — because it can help them “up their gaming level” in the virtual field.

In August, Saudi teenager Mosaad Aldossary picked up a $250,000 prize when he won the global FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final.

More than 20 million gamers vied for a spot in the annual eWorld Cup, with just 32 making it to the finals. Competitors play the FIFA 18 football video game.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Time: 13 Sep 2018



In the run-up to the Olympism in Action Forum in Buenos Aires (5-6 October 2018), we shine a spotlight on groups and individuals who, inspired by the power of sport to contribute to a better world, have used their initiative to organise projects and programmes to effect change at all levels.

More stories

How we do

Understanding Her New Role

Princess Reema admits that she was not a “sporty” person prior to taking her job with the Sports Authority. She knew the health benefits of physical activity, but was not very athletic. Yet, when it came to her new role, she integrated seamlessly.

“Initially, the role I was hired for was to figure out how to include women in sports activities,” she explains. “First, we did the landscape assessment to see what was actually happening in the country and what the needs were. What was super interesting was that we realised the needs for women were actually the same as the needs for young men. What was available to men was actually strategically focused on football, or soccer, as a sport, not holistic sports or general health.”

“So they created the Planning and Development department. Within that, I’m responsible for diversity and inclusion. So, obviously, women as a first track, but also individuals with disabilities. The second track I work on is understanding behavioural and mindset shifts. Our goal is to take a single-sport nation – and by that I mean football – and add more diversity to the sports that are played, and the population that is participating in them.”

Besides including more people in sport and adding more activities to the mix, Princess Reema is also looking to help her country grow a sports economy for the betterment of all people. “We know that if we invest in sport, we will by default have a healthier nation. Heart disease rates will go down. Diabetes rates will go down. Obesity rates will go down.” Already, she’s tackling huge issues within the world of sport.

Making Sport More Accessible for All

Some aspects of Princess Reema’s role are unique to Saudi Arabia: before 2017, women weren’t allowed in sports stadiums in the country. Princess Reema was even told in 2015 that she couldn’t use a stadium as the venue for a record-breaking breast cancer awareness event. But just as Princess Reema started in her role with the General Sports Authority, things started to change.

“I was sitting at a press conference when the chairman of the General Sports Authority made about 20 different announcements. All of the sudden he said, ‘And I’d like to state that in January, the General Sports Authority will be opening three sporting facilities for female attendance.’”

“I almost fell out of my chair. It was absolutely amazing. It was a great day in history for women in my country. Previously, it was not available for women to attend football matches, even as spectators. The sheer act of having women attend meant we now had to have female security guards. We had to have female ushers. We had to have female attendants. It created a whole wave of jobs for women.”

Princess Reema’s work continues to support this monumental societal shift in the way the country interacts with sport. Going forward, wives and daughters will be able to see their husbands or fathers play their sport in person at the stadium. Plus, a young girl could become interested in football itself. “Looking at it on TV is a very different experience to seeing it on the field,” notes Princess Reema.

Prioritising a Connected Family

Gender desegregation is a high priority in the country, not just in sports stadiums, but across the board. Princess Reema believes that sport will help drive this.


“It is really important for a young woman to feel confident in her ability to express her opinions and to have a discourse and a dialogue,” says Princess Reema. “There is no better place to practise than at home. So, when a family is connected and desegregated, communication skills change. Dialogue skills change. Even just basic male–female engagement changes when you segregate people and it changes when you reintegrate. When it comes to sport, having a desegregated household also teaches fair play and competition. When you’re playing amateur sports or hobby sports within a family dynamic, it shows that a boy can win one day, a girl can win one day, and it’s strategy and skills, not your gender, that gets you where you need to go.”

Finding Her Strengths

Though she did not get her start in athletics, Princess Reema has found her place within the Olympic community. “Just because I am a woman does not mean I am the best-equipped person to bring women into sport,” she says. “However, if you want to talk about the point of view of diversity and inclusion, and how can we get as many people involved and feel accepted within this world of sport from the point of view of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship, now you’re speaking my language.”

“This all relates back to Olympism. Olympism is a healthy sense of self that allows you to accept yourself and others and the right for yourself and others to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle that involves both physical activity and social integration. And it really, to me, represents a spirit of camaraderie, because what my understanding of sport was before I worked with this authority was very different from what I see sport doing today. It really is the connective tissue between communities.”

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Community sports deal signed in Jeddah

Time: July 11, 2018

JEDDAH: Jeddah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Majed sponsored an agreement signed by the Saudi Federation for Community Sports and Jeddah’s municipality, as part of the latter’s initiatives to promote community sports in the city.
After the signing, Prince Mishaal highlighted the importance of sports on health, and said demand for sports in the Kingdom is increasing significantly. He urged everyone to benefit from public places dedicated to exercise.
The agreement was signed by federation President Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, and the municipality’s Deputy Secretary Dr. Abdullatif Al-Harthy.
It is supported by Turki bin Abdulmohsen Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA) and of the Saudi Olympic Committee, said Princess Rima.
The agreement will enable Jeddah to become the first city in the Middle East to be named an International Activities City by the International Olympic Committee, she added.
Earlier, Princess Reema encouraged the private sector to invest not just in new sports facilities but also in training academies, human capital development and other elements of the sporting ecosystem.

This article was first published in Arab News

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No turning back on a more inclusive Saudi Arabia, says Princess Reema

Time: June 27, 2018

JEDDAH: Now that the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia has been lifted, there will be no turning back as the Kingdom moves forward to a more inclusive future, Princess Reema bint Bandar said in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“It’s a relief and now, honestly, the onus is on us to take the next step forward in the growth of the inclusion of women in our community,” the executive vice president of the General Sports Authority said in an interview that aired a day after the ban was lifted.
“I’m wonderfully excited. I’m excited for everybody that actually stayed up and got in the car at midnight to take this drive because the symbolism of that is that we’re taking control, but we’re taking control collectively,” the princess said. “This isn’t a singular activity, this isn’t an anomaly. This is our current state, and this is the future state. This isn’t something you go back from.”

Princess Reema credited the “monumental shifts” that have taken place in the past year since Mohammed bin Salman was appointed crown prince. “We went from a community saying no, do not participate in sports, to women entering the stadiums, to traveling the world with young female athletes and that’s just in my small sector.”
The princess said a “critical conversation” about the country’s guardianship law is already happening. “Everyone is having this conversation, the women in government are having the conversation. The timeline of this change is not what I’m in control of, but the dialogue and the narrative is there,” she said.
“I can tell you as a divorced mother of two, this is urgent…Is it going to happen today? I couldn’t tell you. Would I like to see it in the near future? Absolutely.”
Princess Reema was one of the first to retweet Arab News’ animated online illustration of a Saudi woman driving, titled “Start Your Engines,” by renowned artist Malika Favre.

This article was first published in Arab News

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An Increasing Number Of Saudi Arabians Are Choosing An Active Way Of Life

May 19, 2018 

More great news this year for Saudi Arabia: research by the General Sports Authority (GSA) shows that there has been a significant increase in the number of Saudis who are embracing sports and exercise and trying to get healthy. The results of the GSA’s second survey showed that 23 percent of Saudi citizens over the age of 15 now exercise once a week, a significant jump from 13 percent three years ago.

According to Arab News, the GSA conducted its first National Sports Survey in 2015 and defined active people who participate in sports as “individuals who engage in a specific type of physical activity i.e. planned, structured, and repetitive for the main purpose of improving health and maintaining fitness, at least once a week.”

The findings of that survey, which showed just 13 percent of the population were engaged in active lifestyles at the time, were a wake-up call for the Kingdom and helped shape aggressive targets to support mass participation within Vision 2030. The Vision, an ambitious national plan aimed at transforming Saudi Arabia’s economy, also set measures to ensure the country’s citizens lead healthy lifestyles, with a focus on sports, exercise, and recreational activities.

Now, in the first quarter of 2018, the GSA conducted its second National Sports Survey, tracking sporting participation at all levels, with results pointing to the staggering 10 percent increase. In addition, the results mean that the GSA has beat its interim Vision 2030 target of getting 20 percent of Saudis over 15 years old exercising by 2020.

Princess Reema Bint Bander, President of the Mass Participation Federation, explained that the improvements reflect the societal changes in culture and attitudes led by Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s ambitious plan to transform its economy and society, as well as the increased support of Saudi women, apparent in the number of women that are now open to engaging in exercising and physical activity.

“It’s important to recognize that this is a family movement. Men and women, boys and girls, young and old, are responding and are proving, as we believe at the GSA, that sport is for all,” she explained.

Chairman of the GSA, Turki Al-Shaikh, attributed the success of the last three years of efforts to the Kingdom’s leaders, saying, “Thanks to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s continuous support to the sport sector in the Kingdom, this achievement was possible.”

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, vice chairman of the GSA, said, “This result is a huge motivator for us to work even harder. These efforts have generated a positive reaction from the people of Saudi Arabia to improve the quality of their lives.”

The GSA, which established the Mass Participation Federation, the main body responsible for increasing participation in sports in the Kingdom, has been working on several important initiatives since 2015 including work by the gym sector to expand offerings and services, including the opening and licensing of female-only gyms.

This article was first published in  About Her

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Saudi’s Princess Reema says there is a generation gap on reforms

SOURCE: Emirates woman

Apr 17, 2018 

But mothers are glad to see their children gaining more opportunities.

Between its first fashion week, the return of public cinemas, the end of the ban on women driving, and moves to get more women into work, it’s clear that Saudi Arabia is changing.

However, there is a generation gap in terms of how those reforms are being received, the Kingdom’s Princess Reema bint Bandar says.

While younger Saudis tended to be eager for change, the generation up wasn’t always so enthusiastic.

“We held some forums with students in the US and they told us that they want to work and do things but their parents say no,” Princess Reema told Arab News.

“I have to admit we dropped the ball on that aspect. So then we had to sit and work out how to persuade and reassure the parent generation.”

That wasn’t a universal reaction, Princess Reema told the site. Many Saudi women were pleased to see their children have opportunities they didn’t have themselves, the princess said.

“Mothers say that even though they did not have the same chances, they are very glad that their children will,” she told Arab News.

“They may worry about them, but that’s a universal worry shared by any parent.”

Reforms in the Kingdom meant that some parents were happier sending their children overseas to study, Princess Reema said.

“Parents worry about their children going abroad to study and staying there because life was easier. But nowadays they are coming back home because there are opportunities for them,” she told Arab News.

Recently, the kingdom has seen many changes under Vision 2030, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s post-oil economic plan which aims to make Saudi a more modern, tourist-friendly destination.

Last September, a royal decree revealed women will be able to secure driving licences from June 2018, with the news widely celebrated around the globe.

As part of the initiative, the government also aims to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.

Jobs such as soldiers, immigration staff, criminal investigators and firefighters have also been opened up to women in recent months.