Dr. Majdah Abdulhadi Shugdar, Saudi executive

Time: 26 May, 2020

Dr. Majdah Abdulhadi Shugdar

Dr. Majdah Abdulhadi Shugdar has been the general supervisor of the General Directorate of Training at the Education and Training Evaluation Commission since January 2020.

In 1989, she gained a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from King Abdul Aziz University (KAU) and a master’s degree in the same field of study, also from KAU, in 1995.

Fifteen years later, she obtained a post-graduate diploma in research management from the University of Bradford, in the UK and in 2014, a Ph.D. in business administration from Cardiff Metropolitan University, in Wales.

Shugdar worked as a laboratory quality coordinator at the clinical laboratory and blood bank of Jeddah’s King Fahd General Hospital (KFGH) from 1997 to 2001. She also worked at KFGH as director of the total quality management (TQM) department from 2008 to 2015.

In 2004, she became the director of TQM at the Jeddah-based International Medical Center (IMC), where she successfully built a database for the automatic generation of monthly reports. She also developed IMC’s TQM and patient safety plan in coordination with US-based Cleveland Clinic.

Two years later, she moved to the Saudi Central Board for Accreditation of Healthcare Institutions (CBAHI) where she was appointed as the director of the TQM department.

From 2008 to 2015, Shugdar worked as the director of the health care accreditation department at the CBAHI and between 2015 and January 2020 was a general director assistant for health care accreditation affairs with the board.

Shugdar has represented Saudi Arabia as a speaker and chairperson at a number of international events.

This article was first published in Arab News

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How Saudi women’s organizations have risen to the coronavirus challenge

03/05/20

Aloula CEO Dania Al-Maeena is working with Saudi volunteer groups to support distance learning and develop community awareness campaigns such as ‘Alnas Liba’ad.’ (Supplied)

This article was first published in Arab News

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Dr. Sumaya Al-Sulaiman, CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Architecture and Design Authority

02/05/20

Dr. Sumaya Al-Sulaiman

Dr. Sumaya Al-Sulaiman is CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Architecture and Design Authority.

Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan appointed Al-Sulaiman as CEO of the authority, which was launched as part of 11 new cultural bodies operating under the ministry.

She is considered to be a specialist in the field of architecture, obtaining a doctorate in the subject from the UK’s University of Newcastle in 2010.

She received the Ibn Khaldun Fellowship at MIT, in addition to completing several courses and programs at the same institute.

In 2017 Al-Sulaiman was appointed dean of the College of Design at Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University. She is also a member of the Municipal Council of the Eastern Province Municipality.

She oversaw the Kingdom’s first national pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale.

The authority’s functions include developing the sector’s strategy, laying down related regulations, licensing relevant activities, encouraging investment in the field, providing training courses, professional programs, supporting intellectual property rights in related fields, and other organizational functions.

It will implement the ministry’s plans for architecture and design by creating an innovative field that highlights Saudi architectural style and developing it to reflect pride in national identity as an important part of the Vision 2030 reform plan.

The other authorities cover literature, publishing and translation; fashion; film; heritage; visual arts; museums; theater and performing arts; libraries; music; and culinary arts.

This article was first published in Arab News

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OIC chief wants more encouragement for women to join ICT sector

Time: 21 April, 2020

Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen. (AFP)
  • International Girls in ICT Day supports the creation of a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women

JEDDAH: The head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has called for greater efforts to encourage women to join the ICT sector, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, who is OIC-secretary-general, said it was important to equip women with digital skills and for them to choose subjects such as mathematics, engineering, computing and science.

He was speaking on the occasion of International Girls in ICT Day, which is held every year in April.

Al-Othaimeen said: “The OIC gives great importance to empowering women and young women in the area of information and communications technology, and providing equal opportunities for men and women to study and work in that area which is progressing and necessitating more investment as the basis for economic growth and social development.”

International Girls in ICT Day supports the creation of a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women, as well as boys and young men, to consider careers in information and communication.

This article was first published in Arab News

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The day Saudi women could drive

20/04/20

Saudi Majdoleen Mohammed Alateeq, a newly-licensed Saudi driver, gets out of her car drives her car next to a poster of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on June 24, 2018. – Saudi Arabia ended its longstanding ban on women driving on June 24, 2018 — and the second the clock struck midnight, women across the country started their engines. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP)

The lifting of the ban was one of several reforms that improved gender equality

Summary

On June 24, 2018, Saudi women took their place behind the wheel, driving on the Kingdom’s roads legally for the first time. The historic day came about as part of a series of reforms under Vision 2030, announced in 2016 by then-Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It was followed by a royal decree on Sept. 26, 2017, lifting the ban on women driving.

The decision had a demonstrable effect on the daily lives of women and on the Kingdom’s economy. In 2020, it was one of the reforms that led to Saudi Arabia being recognized by the World Bank as the top reformer globally in the past year when it comes to female empowerment and gender equality.

DUBAI: This story could be called a tale of two countries. When I arrived in Jeddah from our Dubai office for my first visit to Saudi Arabia on June 20, 2018, I was not allowed to drive. And then, four days later, along with every other woman in the Kingdom, all of a sudden we could. Much like Cinderella in the fairy tale, our pumpkins turned into carriages at the stroke of midnight on June 24, 2018.

So much has changed since then that it seems like ancient history. The guardianship law, which required Saudi women to get a male guardian’s permission to travel, was rescinded in August last year, and foreign female travelers are no longer expected to wear abayas and headscarves. And in December, the Kingdom officially ended gender segregation in public places, although Saudi women and men had already begun to mingle.

This was all unthinkable at the time that the driving ban was lifted — the first major, visible sign that the Kingdom was serious about change. As my Saudi colleague Noor Nugali pointed out, it was a “mind-blowing” signal that it was headed “100 miles in the right direction.”

So let us reverse, if you will, to the time when the Kingdom was the last country in the world where women could not drive. Arriving on a humid morning at Jeddah’s airport, I stepped off the plane in my abaya with a sense of excitement tempered by fear at what I might encounter as a solo foreign woman in the Kingdom.

After a decade living in the UAE, I had heard stories from other women about their encounters with the Saudi religious police, so I wrapped my headscarf tightly and prepared for the worst.

Mistakenly joining the line for Umrah arrivals, I was approached by a customs officer who, after looking at my visa, asked me to have a seat while he sorted an issue by calling an Arabic speaker in our Jeddah newsroom. “This is it,” I thought. “I’m going to jail.” What happened next was a total surprise. He returned, offering me Arabic coffee and a chocolate heart before helping me through the gates.

“Of all the places I have filed my column from, I never thought one of the most significant would be the passenger seat of my company car … Because the driver sitting next to me was one of my female colleagues at Arab News — and one of the first women to legally take the wheel after the end of a decades-long ban.”

From a page column by Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas in our special issue, June 24, 2018

The driver sent to pick me up told me I did not have to wear a headscarf, so I let it go around my shoulders, already feeling more relaxed. He brought me to the Jeddah Hilton, with a lobby that looks like a “Star Trek” spaceship, and escalators that curl around like spiral staircases.

For the next few days, I made my trips to the Jeddah newsroom with Bakhsh, our ever-smiling company driver who insisted on carrying my bags, whenever he was available. But to those who claim the lifting of the driving ban was just a token gesture, I can tell you: It was anything but. Imagine getting through your day by relying on someone to pick you up at every point, then remember the freedom you felt when you got your license and the keys to your first car.

So when the clocks on our iPhones turned to 12:01 a.m. on June 24, it was not just a sign to start our engines. It was time for Saudi Arabia to leave this old way behind, and the unnecessary load that came with it.

At this time, I was already in the driver’s seat of our company car, wearing Saudi designer Moe Khoja’s driving jacket, embroidered with the date of this occasion. My boss Faisal J. Abbas, beside me in the passenger’s seat, had designated me to take him and my two female colleagues on this drive, because a Saudi woman in our newsroom had yet to get a license. It was not just a historic drive for me; for them, it was the first time they had been driven by a woman in the Kingdom.

Off we drove that night in a big black SUV, rolling down our windows at stoplights and waving to surprised Saudis, who smiled and gave us their thumbs up. The real test was when we pulled up next to a police car at the next light. We waited in nervous silence, until the light turned green and we let go of our breaths, driving off without incident.

The next morning, as more Saudi women took to the roads, I approached the rental-car desk in my hotel lobby to ask about renting a car. The man told me it was not possible. “Oh yes it is,” I told him. “Haven’t you read the news?”

I showed him Arab News’ special issue that day, wrapped in Malika Favre’s illustration of a Saudi woman driving, which went on to become an iconic image of that day. Sadly, it did not help my appeal. He called his supervisor, who told me I needed a Saudi license.

Remarkably, after I wrote about this in Arab News, the chief operating officer of Budget Saudi Arabia contacted me to rectify the confusion. He invited me to visit their office on the Corniche, where I produced my international driver’s license and became the first foreign woman to rent a car in Saudi Arabia.

Much like Cinderella in the fairy tale, our pumpkins turned into carriages at the stroke of midnight on June 24, 2018.

Mo Gannon

As I climbed into the white Land Cruiser, people on the street stopped to take photos with their mobile phones. That night, when I took my ladies on a drive to Old Jeddah, we got the same reception from the crowded streets: Smiles and waves. And unlike most places in the world, male drivers courteously stopped to let us ahead of them in traffic.

We rolled down the windows, blasting the song Saudi singer Tamtam wrote for the occasion: “We know it’s our time… let go of past perceptions, tomorrow is mine. We got drive, pushing through the limits, we ride. We have dreams, and every day we’re making them real…”

I am glad we soaked up the celebrity attention while we had it, because as more Saudi women got their licenses, it has become commonplace to see women driving in the Kingdom. The initial objections raised to allowing women on the roads — that they would clog the streets with traffic or cause more accidents — now seem silly notions from a time long past.

Back at home, I often get asked what it is like to drive in the Kingdom. “Isn’t it scary?” people wonder. My answer to them now is: It is just like anywhere else. And that is exactly how it should be.

  • Mo Gannon is a senior editor in the Dubai bureau of Arab News. She was the first foreign woman to rent a car in Saudi Arabia.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Ibtisam Al-Shehri, Saudi Education Ministry spokesperson

Time: 02 April, 2020

Ibtisam Al-Shehri
  • She has been in her role since August 2019
  • She graduated from the Arabian Gulf University and gained a master’s degree in gifted education.

Ibtisam Al-Shehri has been the spokesperson for the Saudi Ministry of Education since August 2019.

Appointed by Education Minister Hamad Al-Asheikh, she became the first woman to hold the position for public education in the Kingdom.

Al-Shehri has more than 17 years’ experience as an English language teacher covering all levels of education from kindergarten to university. She graduated from the Arabian Gulf University and gained a master’s degree in gifted education.

She was chosen by the Ministry of Education to pursue foreign scholarship studies in the US and attended several international conferences and special forums on education strategy.

The ministry has been working relentlessly to ensure students have access to their education as the world battles the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Al-Shehri said: “The ministry implemented distance learning to 6 million students. Students were offered five options by the ministry for virtual learning, accessible at any time and place. The ministry even made these educational tools available to those without internet access, on TV through Ein channels.”

Students can gain access to their classes through 20 Ein channels on TV, Ein’s YouTube channel, Ein educational portal, future gate and the unified education database. More than 37 million students have tuned in to view Ein’s content on the internet, excluding those watching on TV.

Al-Shehri’s Twitter handle is @spokesp_moe.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi female air traffic controllers reach for the sky

09/03/20

Saudi women air traffic controllers at work. (Supplied photo)
  • Pilots of international airliners have welcomed Saudi women into the profession

JEDDAH: The number of Saudi female air traffic controllers in the Kingdom has reached 26 after they completed their training at the Saudi Civil Aviation Academy.

The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has been empowering Saudi women in several fields, including the profession of air traffic controllers.

Air traffic control (ATC) consists of three main tasks: approach control, air control tower and area control.

Good concentration and quick decision-making are the most important skills of air traffic control personnel.

The importance of this profession is reflected in its impact on the safety, efficiency and regularity of air navigation. It has been classified as one of the most difficult professions globally, which makes it of high importance at the international level.

A number of Saudi female air traffic controllers talked about their start in obtaining a license, and their practical and effective roles in this profession.

Air traffic controller Reem Abdullah explained that the reason she entered the aviation field was the challenges it presented and the passion such sensitive jobs demand.

“We are the first batch of graduates to work in the air traffic control profession and, frankly, it is a very interesting job. Since we started training, we began to get a clear perception of the subject at hand,” she said.

She added: “The training that we received is very intense and accurate and we went through more than ten exams before admission; 11 Saudi girls graduated in that batch.”

After obtaining the license and embarking on her new journey, she said, her colleagues from international airlines were surprised to see a woman taking on such a task. “They started asking: ‘Is this Saudi Arabia? This is Jeddah?’ As time went by, the pilots congratulated me on the job and expressed their high confidence in us.”

Rawan Hubaishi, another air traffic control graduate, also found her new profession to be interesting. “Once you start working in this field, it is hard to do any other job,” she said.

Hubaishi said that the presence of Saudi women in such a profession is the best evidence that they are capable of working in all fields and can perform their work to the highest standards.

Air traffic controller Lina Adel aspires to be the first woman to assume a regional management position.

“The first words we heard when we entered the training was that there is no difference between us and our male colleagues, and that we can work and achieve successes in this profession,” she said. “The profession of air traffic control is very precise and detailed, yet not impossible to conquer.”

Shahad Zareh, an air traffic controller trainee, described the profession as “fun and unconventional.”

“The various exams on this job are not easy at all, but at the same time enjoyable because it is diverse,” she said.

Zareh encouraged her female peers to join the field. “I tell the Saudi girls that the job of air traffic controller is fun and we’re competent and we can do it.”

Air traffic controller Shahad Barakat said that the profession suited her tendencies to overcome challenges and difficulties. “My passion for flying and reading about this sector is behind my love to work as an air traffic controller, and I found that this job suits my preferences, especially that it is a job that has many challenges and is totally unconventional.”

Saudi Arabia possesses an integrated navigation system in air navigation — one of the latest advanced systems at the international level. There are 15 air monitoring units and five maintenance centers operating 24 hours a day in Jeddah and Riyadh.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Women constitute 35% of total Saudi workers in labor market

09/03/20

The highest proportion of licenses was issued in Riyadh, Makkah and the Eastern Province. (AFP/File photo)
  • 174,624 driving licenses were issued for women since lifting of ban, says GASTAT report

RIYADH: The General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) has issued a special report to mark International Women’s Day under the title “Saudi Women: Partners in Success,” highlighting that Saudi women are an important component of the force contributing to national development in all fields.
The report relied on 166 statistical indicators for Saudi women aged 15 years and over based on the results of the last 11 surveys from GASTAT, as well as log data surveys from the Ministries of Interior, Education, Municipal and Rural Affairs, and Health as well as the National Observatory for Women and the World Bank Group.
The goal was to form a statistical image of women in different social, economic, educational, health, cultural, and recreational fields.
GASTAT’s report found that Saudi women over the age of 15 account for 49 percent of the total population, with close proportions in most of the administrative regions. The average age of Saudi women is 28 years old and half of Saudi women are under 27 years old.

FASTFACTS

• Saudi women over the age of 15 account for 49 percent of the total population.

• The average age of Saudi women is 28 years old and half of Saudi women are under 27 years old.

• The most preferred sport among Saudi women is walking, at 82.5 percent.

The report said that Vision 2030 contributed to enhancing the status of women and their obtaining of more rights through empowerment at the national and international levels. This has allowed women to play a key role in development. Saudi female workers in the labor market constitute 35 percent of the total Saudi workers.
King Salman’s directive to issue driving licenses for women was implemented on June 24, 2018. By Jan. 20, 2020, 174,624 driving licenses had been issued to women. The highest proportion of licenses was issued in Riyadh, Makkah and the Eastern Province, accounting for 90 percent of the total licenses issued to Saudi women.
The most preferred sport among Saudi women is walking, at 82.5 percent.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Arab News closer to goal of gender-balanced newsroom

08/03/2020

Arab News launched its gender-balance initiative in April 2018 during the inaugural Arab Women Forum at King Abdullah Economic City. (AN Photo by Huda Bashatah)

  • Gender-balance initiative was launched in April 2018 at inaugural Arab Women Forum
  • Over the past year, proportion of female editorial staff has risen from 35 to 46 percent

JEDDAH: Arab News has made great strides in improving the gender balance among staff in its newsrooms, and is getting close to its goal of achieving a 50:50 split by the end of this year.
The Riyadh-based newspaper revealed that in the past year, the proportion of female editorial staff has increased from 35 percent to 46 percent.
This includes employees at its offices in Saudi Arabia, London and Dubai, along with its regular op-ed writers and foreign correspondents. An all-female team was also assembled to provide special coverage of Hajj.
Arab News launched its gender-balance initiative in April 2018 during the inaugural Arab Women Forum at King Abdullah Economic City. The efforts it has employed to achieve its goal include active recruitment, and specialist training and career guidance provided by experienced professionals at the newspaper and from other prestigious news organizations. It has been assisted by the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, the paper’s publisher.
Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas said the initiative reflects the wider reforms in Saudi Arabia in recent years, which includes a drive to encourage more women to enter the workforce.
Assembling a diverse newsroom is not simply a box-ticking exercise, he added, it is about providing equal opportunities to all skilled journalists in Saudi Arabia and beyond.
“It is also about serving the community better by doing what we do best: Quality, insightful and inclusive journalism,” Abbas said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Faces of Saudi: Arab News project profiling inspirational women in Saudi Arabia

08/03/2020

FacesOfSaudi.com features portraits and profiles of inspiring Saudi women from a wide range of backgrounds who defy Western society’s stereotypes. (Arab News)

  • FacesOfSaudi.com is an expansion of Arab News’ popular weekly feature The Face.

To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s English-language daily, is launching a special website that celebrates successful Saudi women.

FacesOfSaudi.com features portraits and profiles of inspiring Saudi women from a wide range of backgrounds who defy Western society’s stereotypes.

“Saudi society is one that may still remain a mystery to some, but through this series I shed light on successful Saudi women in their homes, with their families,” said Rawan Radwan, a Saudi journalist with Arab News and the paper’s regional correspondent. “This series shows the world just who they are and their drive behind their success.”

FacesOfSaudi.com is an expansion of Arab News’ popular weekly feature The Face. “It was a wonderful experience being part of The Face, specifically the photography aspect where we were in our natural environment and not staged,” said fitness entrepreneur Fatima Batook. “To be among many women who make a positive impact in their communities is an honor. So proud that it still continues.”

FacesOfSaudi.com is the latest in a series of initiatives in keeping with the news organization’s mandate as “the voice of a changing region.”

“Arab News has been a champion of Saudi women as they step into their rightful place in society under the reforms of Vision 2030, including a 50/50 gender-balance target in our newsrooms,” Radwan said. “FacesOfSaudi.com is one of the best expressions of what we do: Pulling the veil off the world’s misconceptions of the Kingdom.”

Among our first Faces are research scientist Dr. Yasmin Altwaijri, UN diplomat Basma Alshaalan and Dina Alfaris, cofounder of the first Saudi caviar farm and founder of the Qamrah fashion brand. “I remind myself and all women to own our aspirations, believe in our power to live up to our potential with confidence, and enjoy the purposeful world,” Alfaris said. “We are ready to embrace ambition.”

Faces of Saudi will have its own pages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook where users can interact and share these fascinating and true stories of successful women from the Kingdom.

Follow Faces of Saudi on social media:

Twitter.com/facesofsaudi
Instagram.com/facesofsaudi
Facebook.com/facesofsaudi

This article was first published in Arab News

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