The association’s mission will be to empower, develop, promote, and educate women to contribute toward the objectives of the national vision
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is to establish a Future Women’s Civil Association to help develop the work of the volunteer and nonprofit sector in the Kingdom. Saudi Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi said his decision to set up the civil society was in line with the Vision 2030 reform plan to grow the charity sector in the country.
The association’s mission will be to empower, develop, promote, and educate women to contribute toward the objectives of the national vision, while supporting female participation in leading the Kingdom’s future social, economic, and cultural development.
Erin Watson-Lynn, head of Australia’s delegation to the W20, center, believes that an ideal society is one where people have the opportunity to reach their potential. (Supplied)
Coronavirus pandemic puts spotlight on women’s empowerment, Erin Watson-Lynn claims
RIYADH: The head of Australia’s delegation to the W20, the G20 women’s engagement unit, has described the Saudi presidency of the group as “extraordinary.”
Erin Watson-Lynn added that the coronavirus pandemic has had some positive effects in highlighting and accelerating women’s empowerment.
“I’ve got to say the Saudi presidency of the W20 through Dr. Thoraya Obaid and Salma Al-Rashid and the team has been extraordinary in terms of how they’ve managed and organized the W20 this year. I think it’s been outstanding. So a lot of credit goes to their leadership,” she told Arab News.
“Before the pandemic, women’s empowerment was a huge imperative. Women are overrepresented in low-pay, low-skilled part-time work, so empowering women in the economy is the key to inclusive growth. And the pandemic just accelerates all of this and puts a spotlight on it,” she added.
Watson-Lynn said that women have been burdened by unpaid domestic work, and having to balance work and family responsibilities.
The G20 needs to measure what is going on in terms of gender in the economy. Once you’re measuring data, then you can have policy interventions that you can measure. I think the Workplace Gender Equality Agency in Australia is an example that other countries can look at.
Erin Watson-Lynn, Head of Australia’s delegation to the W20
In Australia, she added, the number of academic papers submitted to journals increased, but the proportion of women submitting them decreased.
“Men can contribute more during this time because they’re working from home. But women working from home need to balance the domestic responsibilities so their contribution to knowledge is decreasing,” she said.
One of the key positions the Australian delegation promoted in the W20 is the use of data, Watson-Lynn said. “You can’t identify your weak spots and you can’t measure progress if you aren’t collecting data.
“The G20 needs to measure what is going on in terms of gender in the economy. Once you’re measuring data, then you can have policy interventions that you can measure. I think the Workplace Gender Equality Agency in Australia is an example that other countries can look at,” she added.
The pandemic has made it feasible to integrate family and work, Watson-Lynn said, adding that women continue to do far more unpaid household labor than men. “So encouraging men to take on more flexibility is important. I think the pandemic has demonstrated to some men that it’s possible. And we see a lot more integration between men and family,” she said.
Watson-Lynn warned that equality concerns both men and women and that there always has to be some balance between taking care of children and work, “but how you split that balance between different people in a household, that’s important.”
Her vision of an ideal society is one where people have the choice and freedom to lead the lives they want and have the opportunity to reach their potential. “That sounds lofty, up in the air and idealistic, but when you think about it, this comes down to being economically empowered, politically empowered and being able to make choices about your life.”
Erin Watson-Lynn began her career as a labor market analyst. She has written many papers on gender, work, employment and entrepreneurship.
Although the G20 is different this year after moving online, it has been easy for delegates to attend events, Watson-Lynn said. “We can take part in a way that we’ve not been able to before. We have met far more regularly because the meetings are online and we’ve been far more focused on outcomes at each meeting than ever before.”
Having those regular meetings has been good for the W20, she added.
Watson-Lynn began her career as a labor market analyst. She has written many papers on gender, work, employment and entrepreneurship, but a big part of her work through the G20 has been focused on women. “I guess my career has been focused on the international relations space. So it’s been a bit of a hybrid career in that sense. It’s great to be able to contribute to international policymaking through the G20,” she said.
Protection offered by Saudi Arabia’s 2018 anti-harassment law enabled women to gain new freedoms without hindrance. (AFP/File Photo)
The criminalization of sexual harassment in May 2018 was a watershed moment for Saudi women, leading to unprecedented reform
Some 5.5 million women over the age of 21 are already benefiting from sweeping reforms guarding their rights and safety at work
DUBAI: In the space of just a few years, the legal rights of Saudi women have fundamentally changed, opening up new freedoms of movement, the ability to choose where they want to live, and the right to pursue their own career aspirations for the first time.
Bold reforms implemented under the Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030 development plan have already led to significant growth in the number of women joining the labor force, from 18 percent in 2017 to 23 percent in 2018, according to World Bank figures.
Although this figure is still far lower than the average of 59 percent among member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, it marks a significant turning point for a largely conservative society.
For this revolution to occur, vital legislation first had to be drafted to guarantee the rights and safety of women in the workplace. Key to this was the criminalization of sexual harassment.
The anti-harassment law of May 2018 defines sexual harassment as “all conduct of a sexual nature from one person to the other, including touching of the body, honor or modesty in any way, shape or form.” The definition also applies to electronic communications such as social media.
According to the Shoura Council, Saudi Arabia’s formal consultative body that drafted the law, the aim is “to combat the crime of harassment, preventing it from occurring, applying punishment to the perpetrators, and protecting the victim in order to safeguard the individual’s privacy, dignity and personal freedom guaranteed by Islamic law and regulations.”
The statute on sexual harassment grants victims the right to anonymity, and allows courts to hand down punishments of up to two years in jail and maximum fines of SR100,000 ($26,500).
In the most severe cases, involving children or disabled victims, the law allows penalties of up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of SR300,000 ($80,000). The law also criminalizes inciting or assisting harassment and falsely reporting offenses.
This was a watershed moment for Saudi Arabia. With this strict legal deterrent in place, an avalanche of reforms could follow, empowering women to enter civic life, beginning in June 2018 with the lifting of the ban on them driving.
Other decrees soon followed, including amendments to the male guardianship system so that women over the age of 21 were free to leave the house unaccompanied, and the equalizing of women’s right to choose a place of residency.
Discrimination based on gender in employment was also prohibited, as were the dismissal of pregnant women and discrimination based on gender in accessing credit.
New childcare centers were established and subsidies made available to help more women leave the home.
Pension equality was also introduced by equalizing the retirement age for men and women, and mandating pension care credits for maternity leave.
An estimated 5.5 million Saudi women over the age of 21 are already benefiting from these reforms, and long-entrenched social norms are gradually coming undone.
Due to these rapid developments, the World Bank’s “Women, Business, and the Law 2020” report, published in April, recognized Saudi Arabia as the world’s top reformer in the last year.
“Saudi Arabia basically has become one of the leaders in the Arab world in terms of women empowerment,” Issam Abu Sulaiman, the World Bank’s regional director for the Gulf Cooperation Council, said at the time, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The groundwork for this rapid social change was laid by the anti-harassment law, which has given women the confidence and legal protection they need to freely participate and contribute to society.
Now an amendment is being drafted to further strengthen the penalty for sexual harassment in Saudi Arabia to include the naming and shaming of offenders.
Shoura Council members believe that the threat of defamation will act as an even greater deterrent to misconduct than fines and imprisonment alone.
“Defamation is for the larger good of society,” Lina Almaeena, a member of the Shoura Council and co-founder of the Jeddah United Sports Co., told Arab News.
“It’s a deterrent that many countries have applied and that has proved effective in reducing harassment cases. The anti-sexual harassment law has proved effective in preventing misconduct.”
By making the issue a matter of honor, it is felt that households will take greater care when educating their children about social conduct. “There’s going to be more awareness, and families will play a bigger role,” Almaeena said.
Before it can come into force, the draft amendment must first go before the Council of Ministers for endorsement and then be issued as a royal decree by King Salman.
“We are talking now about making a new amendment by adding a new article to the existing law. We are not talking about a new law,” Faisal Fadhil, a UK-educated legal expert and Shoura Council member, told Arab News.
Some observers believe strengthening the existing law will allow even more women to join the labor force without fear of harassment in the workplace.
“It would encourage more young girls and women to join the workforce with confidence, feeling protected, and feeling they’ll be supported if they’re faced with any harassment,” Maha Akeel, director of social and family affairs at the Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation, told Arab News.
No statistics are readily available on the incidence of sexual harassment in Saudi Arabia, largely due to past reluctance to report violations.
There is therefore limited data to demonstrate its prevalence or show the impact of legislation.
“Maybe we’ll see more reporting. Maybe we’ll see fewer public displays of harassment. It’s difficult to measure the impact, lacking factual studies and statistics,” said Akeel.
She nevertheless sees the threat of defamation as a potent weapon against harassment, which could prove especially effective in Saudi culture.
“Sometimes people fear the public naming and shaming more than financial penalties or even imprisonment … because it will harm their reputation,” Akeel said.
“We’re a conservative society, so it might be more of a deterrent than the punishments tried earlier.”
The board of directors of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG) announced, on Thursday, the appointment of Ms. Joumana Rashed Al-Rashed as the new chief executive officer of the group. (Supplied)
Ms. Joumana Al-Rashed holds a Master’s degree in International Journalism from City University in London
RIYADH: The board of directors of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG) announced, on Thursday, the appointment of Ms. Joumana Rashed Al-Rashed as the new chief executive officer of the group, replacing Mr. Saleh Bin Hussain Al-Dowais.
Ms. Joumana Al-Rashed holds a Master’s degree in International Journalism from City University in London in 2013.
She graduated from SOAS University in London in 2011 with a Bachelor of Political Science.
She previously served as media advisor and media communications director.
Light and eco-friendly businesses under development include jewelry, accessories, cosmetics, fashion, fabrics, electronics and medical equipment
MADINAH: Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman has stressed the important role of the Modon Oasis project in Yanbu in empowering women and supporting their development.
The project looks to help women integrate into the industrial sector, assist entrepreneurs in the job market and promote small and medium-sized enterprises.
Prince Faisal’s comments came during an inspection tour of the industrial oasis in Yanbu where 20 plants are under construction, each covering a total area of 450 square meters. The governor was accompanied by Khalid Al-Salem, director general of the Saudi Industrial Property Authority (Modon).
Prince Faisal reviewed details and phases of the oasis, which is being developed as a model industrial city adapted to boost women’s role in the workforce.
Light and eco-friendly businesses under development include jewelry, accessories, cosmetics, fashion, fabrics, electronics and medical equipment. They are part of Modon initiatives within the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program.
Al-Salem thanked Prince Faisal for his support of Modon and said that several service and development projects are being implemented, including a potable water network, doors and fences.
Saudi Shoura Council Speaker Dr. Abdullah Al-Asheikh chairs a remote session of the council as a health precaution in Riyadh. (SPA/File)
It will help eliminate harassment in workplaces and public places as well as in schools
JEDDAH: Violations of Saudi Arabia’s anti-sexual harassment laws could be punished by “naming and shaming” following a decision by the Kingdom’s Shoura Council to approve a defamation penalty.
The council voted in favor of the penalty during its session on Wednesday after previously rejecting the move in March this year.
Council member Latifah Al-Shaalan said the proposal to include the penalty was sent by the Saudi Cabinet.
Saudi lawyer Njood Al-Qassim said she agrees with the move, adding that it will help eliminate harassment in workplaces and public places as well as in schools.
“The penalty will be imposed according to a court ruling under the supervision of judges, and according to the gravity of the crime and its impact on society,” Al-Qassim told Arab News.
“This will be a deterrent against every harasser and molester,” she said.
Al-Qassim said that legal experts are required to explain the system and its penalties to the public.
“The Public Prosecution has clarified those that may be subject to punishment for harassment crimes, including the perpetrator, instigator and accessory to the crime, the one who agreed with the harasser, malicious report provider, and the person who filed a malicious prosecution lawsuit,” she added.
“The Public Prosecution also confirmed that attempted harassment requires half the penalty prescribed for the crime,” said Al-Qassim.
In May 2018, the Shoura Council and Cabinet approved a measure criminalizing sexual harassment under which offenders will be fined up to SR100,000 ($26,660) and jailed for a maximum of two years, depending on the severity of the crime.
In the most severe cases, where the victims are children or disabled, for example, violators will face prison terms of up to five years and/or a maximum penalty of SR300,000.
Incidents that have been reported more than once will be subject to the maximum punishment.
The law seeks to combat harassment crimes, particularly those targeting children under 18 and people with special needs.
Witnesses are also encouraged to report violations and their identities will remain confidential.
The law defines sexual harassment as words or actions that hint at sexuality toward one person from another, or that harms the body, honor or modesty of a person in any way. It takes into account harassment in public areas, workplaces, schools, care centers, orphanages, homes and on social media.
“The legislation aims at combating the crime of harassment, preventing it, applying punishment against perpetrators and protecting the victims in order to safeguard the individual’s privacy, dignity and personal freedom which are guaranteed by Islamic law and regulations,” a statement from the Shoura Council said.
Council member Eqbal Darandari, who supports the law, said on Twitter that the defamation penalty has proven its effectiveness in crimes in which a criminal exploits a person’s trust.
“The defamation of one person is a sufficient deterrent to the rest,” she said.
Social media activist Hanan Abdullah told Arab News the decision “is a great deterrent for every harasser since some fear for their personal and family’s reputation, and won’t be deterred except through fear of defamation.”
The move will protect women from “uneducated people who believe that whoever leaves her house deserves to be attacked and harassed,” she said.
“Anyone who is unhappy with this decision should look at their behavior.”
Noura bin Saidan, on the field working on the Cairo Square project, as part of the Saudi national day activities. (Supplied)
Roads and tunnels among sites being decorated
RIYADH: Saudi artists are decorating Riyadh with Arabic calligraphy, as part of the municipality’s efforts to beautify the capital.
The capital is witnessing a transformation, with several development projects underway that aim to improve people’s standards of living and ensure a sustainable environment in line with international standards.
There are efforts underway to make Riyadh greener, in addition to gracing the city’s infrastructure with artwork.
One of the people involved in the calligraphy initiative, graffiti artist Noura bin Saidan, said she wanted the city to be the most beautiful in the world in terms of art and design.
“The initiative was launched in March 2020,” she told Arab News. “I designed the place and chose the appropriate colors for the tunnel on King Khalid Road, which is near the heritage city of Diriyah. The colors I used are also inspired by the city’s heritage. We took advantage of this opportunity to participate in the Year of Arabic Calligraphy 2020, which is led by the Ministry of Culture.”
She used the Thuluth font to write the words of Saudi Arabia’s national anthem as the country’s National Day was approaching, and said the idea was to open up a wider space for artists to participate in such projects.
“After getting approval for the design, we selected several artists based on their experience in this type of art.”
Bin Saidan is vice president of the arts and architecture division of the Omran Society and owns a studio called ns4art. Her passion for graffiti and murals began with her master’s thesis about the role of art in beautifying roads and tunnels.
“10 years later the dream came true and I started coloring Riyadh,” she said.
The artists have moved to the next tunnel, on King Fahd Road, named Cairo Square, which was one of the activities of Saudi Arabia’s 90th National Day. She said the tunnel project took seven days to complete.
Bin Saidan said that people were happy about the final result and that she had been contacted by municipalities from different parts of the Kingdom about working with them.
Riyadh’s weather and the location of the projects were among the challenges that Bin Saidan and her team faced, as most of the sites were on highways.
And, while beautifying roads and tunnels is not her first project, she considered it one of her major ones.
“There are more projects to come, but we are waiting for the final approval.”
RIYADH: Hamad Al-Sheikh inaugurated the first two digital colleges for women in Riyadh and Jeddah on Wednesday.
The ceremony was held in the presence of the governor of the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC), Ahmed Al-Fuhaid.
The colleges will provide specialized training programs for about 4,000 trainees in several fields. Programs on offer include network systems management, media technology, software, the Internet of things, smart cities, robotics technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
It is the latest move to create an encouraging and safe work environment.(AN Photo)
Ministry: the employer is prohibited from distinguishing between their workers
JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development recently issued an order to ensure there is no gender-based discrimination in employees’ wages.
It is the latest move to create an encouraging and safe work environment, provide decent and sustainable job opportunities for all citizens and address the challenges facing workers and employers.
The ministry said that “the employer is prohibited from distinguishing between their workers, whether during the performance of work or when hiring or advertising it, such as sex, disability, age, or any other form of discrimination.”
At the Misk Global Forum 2019, the Saudi energy minister, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is providing all Saudis with equal opportunities.
“We know that our women now are enabled, they have an education program,” he said. “We have equal pay for both men and women.”
The move was widely welcomed by Saudis. Electrical engineer Mohammed Al-Ali told Arab News that it would encourage more women to join the workforce.
“This decision is a step forwards towards equality for women. It encourages more women to be part of the workforce and will turn our economy into a prosperous one,” said Al-Ali.
“Saudi Arabia, as part of its 2030 vision, is going through rapid changes towards a more inclusive society, where women and men work side by side with no discrimination.”
Saudi admin assistant Rozan Al-Nahari said that women work just as hard as men, and this move would bring financial relief to many. “We spend the same working hours at the office, complete the same tasks and many of us try to prove ourselves in any establishment,” she said.
“I’m very happy that all of the social reforms are so supportive of women.”
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