Women politicians on the rise but more must be done

Time: 06 April 2021


The coronavirus disease remains a challenge for women health-wise, economically and socially. (AFP)

March is the month of women. Starting with International Women’s Day on March 8, the month also sees the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the largest UN gathering on gender equality (March 15-26), during which the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) releases its “Women in Politics” report. This year, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also marked the month with a milestone achievement: The launch of its specialized Women Development Organization (WDO).
The reports and indications presented at this year’s CSW65 highlighted some progress for women, but also reflected great concern due to some setbacks, especially as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The two-week virtual gathering — held under the theme “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls” — ended with the adoption by UN member states of the “Agreed Conclusions.” These recognize the need to significantly accelerate the pace of progress to ensure women’s full participation and leadership at all levels of decision-making in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and in the public sector. They also recognized that temporary special measures, such as quotas and increased political will, are needed as an enabling pathway to this goal.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) remains a challenge for women — health-wise, economically and socially. The Agreed Conclusions acknowledge that the pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities that perpetuate multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, as well as racism, stigmatization and xenophobia. The data shows that women have been mostly absent from COVID-19 government task forces around the world (they make up only 24 percent of the 225 task force members examined across 137 countries). Such disproportionate representation will hamper women’s recovery from the pandemic, thus prolonging their hardships, considering that COVID-19 has had a staggering impact on women — from their roles as front-line healthcare workers to the loss of jobs, particularly as the informal sector shrinks, and the alarming spike in domestic violence and the unpaid care burden, which threatens to push 47 million additional women into extreme poverty.
Meanwhile, the IPU-UN Women map of women in politics 2021, which provides global rankings of women in executive, government and parliamentary positions as of Jan. 1, shows all-time highs for the number of countries with female heads of state or heads of government (up to 22 countries from 20 last year, with Europe being the region with the most countries led by women) and the global share of women ministers, especially in Europe and the Americas. While women ministers continue to dominate the portfolios covering social, family and women’s affairs, there has been a slight increase in their share of traditionally male-led ministerial portfolios such as defense (up from 11.9 percent to 13.5 percent) and finance (from 10.1 percent to 11.5 percent), plus a significant increase in foreign affairs (from 16.8 percent to 26 percent).
However, despite the growing number of women at the highest levels of political power, widespread gender inequalities persist. Progression among women holding ministerial portfolios has slowed, with a small increase from 21.3 percent in 2020 to 21.9 percent in 2021; the number of countries with no women in government has increased from nine to 12; and only 25.5 percent of national parliamentarians are women, compared to 24.9 percent last year. The ranking of the regions in terms of the percentage of women in parliament is: The Americas (32.2 percent), Europe with the Nordic countries (30.5 percent), Europe without the Nordic countries (29.1 percent), Sub-Saharan Africa (25.1 percent), Asia (20.8 percent), the Middle East and North Africa (19.3 percent), and the Pacific (18 percent). The countries that have the highest percentage of women in parliament are Rwanda (61.3 percent), Cuba (53.4 percent) and the UAE (50 percent).
Although Saudi Arabia is among the countries that have no women in government, and the percentage of women in the Shoura Council remains at 20 percent, the Kingdom has made tremendous progress toward women’s empowerment, including making laws that eliminate discrimination against women, protect them from violence and support their full and effective participation in development at all levels. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 includes the National Transformation Program, which aimed to increase the rate of female participation in the labor market to 25 percent in 2020. This target was exceeded, with the country achieving 31 percent by the end of last year, with Saudi women assuming many leadership positions in various fields.
Meanwhile, the OIC has also gained traction on the road to female empowerment. On March 24, the Ministerial Council of the OIC’s WDO adopted its internal rules and regulations, thus setting it up to start operating. Taking off during an exceptional year, with circumstances that will have a long-term impact, the WDO has its work cut out for it. In addition to the factors highlighted in the CSW and IPU reports, women in many of the 57 member countries of the OIC (currently only 15 of them are members of the WDO) are also severely affected by conflict, instability, underdevelopment, terrorism and extremism, which not only hamper their participation in public life but also threaten their lives.

Despite the growing number of women at the highest levels of political power, widespread gender inequalities persist.

Maha Akeel

Numbers and percentages do not give the full picture and they can be misleading. More important than the number of women in parliament or their percentage in government and the portfolios they hold is the role they actually play, the contributions they make and their engagement in decision-making. Political, cultural, social and legislative barriers continue to hinder women’s full and effective participation in the development of societies worldwide. More concrete measures need to be taken at all levels of government and society that will enable women to play a more active role in decision-making.

Maha Akeel is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. Twitter: @MahaAkeel1
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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Saudi fund gives women travel expense increase for daily commute

Time: 05 April 2021

The program was also extended to two years from the original 12 months. (File/Shutterstock)

The Saudi Human Resources Development Fund (HADAF) raised the financial support offered by the “Wusool” program to SR1100 monthly ($293)
RIYADH: A fund that provides financial assistance for Saudi women to get to work has been extended.

The Saudi Human Resources Development Fund (HADAF) raised the financial support offered by the “Wusool” program to SR1100 monthly ($293) from SR800 for those earning SR6000 or less, Al Eqtisadiah newspaper reported. The grant covers up to 80 percent of commute costs.

It comes as the government ushers in a number of reforms aimed at boosting the number of women at work.
The program was also extended to two years from the original 12 months, the newspaper said.
Transport is provided through companies licensed by the Ministry of Transport to ensure the safety of users.
The program covers 13 regions across the Kingdom, consisting of Riyadh, Makkah, the Eastern Province, Al Madinah, Tabuk, Asir, Qassim, Hail, Jizan, the Northern Borders, Najran, Al-Jouf, and Al-Baha.

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7 winners of Princess Seetah bint Abdul Aziz Award for excellence in social work honored at ceremony

Time: 05 April 2021

The winners of the Princess Seetah bint Abdul Aziz Award, selected from 404 applications, received their honors during a socially distanced virtual ceremony broadcast live via YouTube
RIYADH: A group of seven winners have been awarded a prestigious Saudi accolade for their excellence in social work during the coronavirus pandemic.

The winners of the Princess Seetah bint Abdul Aziz Award, selected from 404 applications, received their honors during a socially distanced virtual ceremony broadcast live via YouTube.

Each award winner delivered a short video presentation explaining their social work initiatives over the last year and how they were able to provide aid to people throughout the Kingdom suffering the financial, health, and social effects of the global virus outbreak.

Held in the luxury surroundings of the Prince Sultan Grand Hall at Al-Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh, the awards ceremony and celebratory lunch was restricted to just winners and their main contributors due to COVID-19 precautionary measures.

Secretary-general of the social work awards, Fahad Al-Maghlouth, said: “There is room for hope and giving, and today we celebrate to honor the winners of the Princess Seetah bint Abdul Aziz Award for excellence in social work in its eighth session, and we have the right to be proud of them.”

The theme of this year’s awards was “social work in the face of crises and dangers,” and winners were congratulated by Prince Turki bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Saud, Ahmed Al-Rajhi, the chairman of the board of the Princess Seetah Foundation and Saudi minister of human resources and social development, and Al-Maghlouth.

Al-Rajhi said: “Our dear country has remained proud with its advanced developmental achievements and its sincere and honorable humanitarian stances when difficulties intensify, challenges emerge, and tribulations besiege us, despite all the difficult circumstances the world has experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This country, by the grace of God, and then through the efforts of our wise leadership, was a model for the concept of a strong state with its ambitions, ready for crises with all its energies, prepared in terms of the readiness of its infrastructures, support for the people on its land and everywhere. Do we not have the right to feel proud and pride?”

The minister also highlighted the Saudi green project that aims to invest in promoting quality of life and support for those in need.

“The project targets remote areas and needy families, and works on development, training, and support in accordance with specific environmental programs throughout the year in coordination with the relevant authorities … to improve social conditions and environmental living for citizens and families to help them lead a decent and productive life.”

The program titled, “The Green Project: Together to Support Green Saudi Arabia” assists in career development, year-round training, city development, and environmental growth.

Addressing the awards ceremony, Al-Rajhi noted the importance of social work in contributing to the development of the Kingdom and he praised King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for making “human stability their top priority.”

Al-Maghlouth said the award winners were shining examples of the “generosity and loyalty without limits” shown by the nation, adding that “the most amazing achievements are when they carry human touches that rejoice hearts and draw smiles and inspire optimism and confirm the depth of cohesion between the sons of the nation and its leadership.”

Following the speeches, a video presentation documented some of the health, bereavement, and financial challenges being faced by the world from the COVID-19 pandemic and how collaborative schemes such as track-and-trace apps, humanitarian aid, and financial assistance had helped to ease hardships.

The category winners were:

The excellence in national achievement award went to the health ministry’s volunteering program and education ministry’s distance learning digital platform Madrasati (my school).

The Madrasti system helped more than 5 million public and 1 million private students from 900 schools throughout the Kingdom forced to close during the pandemic.

The General Authority for Endowments scooped the excellence in Islamic endowment accolade for helping to mitigate the effects of the virus on people through its humanitarian initiatives.

The Madinah Al-Munawarah NGO was presented with the excellence in social work award for its good city initiative.

Sheikh Abdullah Ibrahim Al-Subeaei received the excellence for social work entrepreneurs honor for setting up a charitable institution and donating money to various causes in the Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Advanced Petrochemical Co. was awarded the corporate social responsibility award for pandemic projects, and Sadara Chemical Co. for its work with the health sector in tackling COVID-19.

The late Princess Seetah bint Abdul Aziz was known for her generosity and compassion toward those in need, running numerous social assistance programs.

This article was first published in Arab News

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New initiatives helping Saudi women achieve their true potential

11/03/21

The Diriyah Gate Development Authority is leading by example as it is focusing on an inclusive approach to give women equal opportunities to prove their mettle. (Photo/Supplied)

Kingdom’s private and public sectors investing heavily to boost women’s skills
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s private and public sectors have been investing in training and mentoring programs to help boost women’s skills and careers. The idea of women’s empowerment has taken a center stage in most of the commercial and non-commercial entities in the Kingdom.

Past debates about whether women should join the workforce are over. The future is now.
Efforts are underway to support and empower female workers, so they can realize their true potential through training, reskilling and upskilling initiatives. According to the Cambridge dictionary, the term “upskilling” refers to the process of learning new skills or teaching workers new skills while “reskilling” is the process of learning new skills so workers can do a different job or instruct others on how to do a different job.

Saudi Arabia’s strong approach to women’s inclusivity in the workforce has provided many with the means to grow professionally in the private and government sectors. The new focus is on hiring those who fit the job description and can add to their skills. It is a critical strategy in the Kingdom’s ever-changing and growing employment landscape.
“I’ve always run initiatives to empower women whether that was in previous jobs or here in Saudi Arabia,” Danielle Atkins, the CMO at the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, told Arab News.

Several initiatives continue to help Saudi female workers rise to prominence.

“My team’s success is a direct reflection on my own success. For me to come to Saudi and inspire a new generation of female leaders — that’s my benchmark of success,” Atkins said.
The Kingdom is determined to groom its female leaders while bringing out the passion, energy and enthusiasm of its workers. Atkins said DGDA is on a similar mission.
One of her protégées went on to become the company’s community management associate director. Ahlam Al-Thunayan, a native of Diriyah, is working within DGDA’s Community Engagement Department and is proud to be part of an all-female staff.

I’ve always run initiatives to empower women whether that was in previous jobs or here in Saudi Arabia.

Danielle Atkins, CMO at the Diriyah Gate Development Authority

“Each team member is strong and opinionated, and they are hard workers even though most are fresh graduates,” Al-Thunayan told Arab News.
DGDA has made strides in fields such as hospitality, culture and heritage, and tourism. Al-Thunayan noted that the firm focuses on each new employee’s skill set, and places them in the department best suited for them. The ongoing practice of reskilling increases growth opportunities, boosts performance, and helps the company stay competitive.
More than 40 percent of Saudi government workers are female as DGDA is playing a key role in employing women. Over half of the marketing team consists of women as the firm is also creating even more new roles within its establishment for female workers. Those who show potential and work at a high pace are selected for leadership development programs that help further their careers while also putting a focus on moving employees from one department to the next to upskill their staff.
Atkins’ advice for trainees and young graduates still new to the workforce is to do something they are passionate about.

Each team member is strong and opinionated, and they are hard workers even though most are fresh graduates.

Ahlam Al-Thunayan

“At the end of the day, you’ll excel if you are passionate,” she said. “When you are young and have not had a lot of experience in the workplace, having the opportunity to work in different departments under different leadership is a really good way to develop your skills. It also helps you understand where is the best place to grow and develop going forward.”
Reskilling and upskilling initiatives continue to help female workers rise to prominence.
Thekra Althaalabi started off as a warehouse employee at Al-Nahdi Medical Co. where she was responsible for performing an array of duties. After eight years with the company, she is now a warehouse shift and supply chain manager leading an all-female team.
“Just like everyone, I started at the very bottom,” Althaalabi told Arab News.
“Throughout my time working here, the company ensured that I received different types of training in processing incoming stock, time management, documentation and inventory workshops. The training has benefited me greatly.”
Starting off with nine female employees in 2012, the medical distribution division at the warehouse has since increased 80 women in different divisions across the supply chain. Althaalabi said employees were encouraged to take part in the different training programs that were available. Many have been able to put their training into practice and rise in ranks.
“The common feeling is that we, as female employees, have grown more confident in our jobs,” she said. “We are empowered, we have developed our skills within our area of expertise and we are improving employee capabilities.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Women are equal stakeholders in Saudi Arabia’s development

10/03/21

Over the past few years, the kingdom has witnessed 90 major human rights reforms, of which women’s empowerment constitutes the largest share

The reforms undertaken by the kingdom to empower women since the launch of Vision 2030 has helped the Saudi economy become more resilient.(REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo)

The past year, plagued by the unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic, has undoubtedly been challenging for all economies alike. A sound recovery from the pandemic is possible with women at the frontlines. In line with the International Women’s Day theme this year, Saudi Arabia, too, celebrates women’s tremendous contribution in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the pandemic.

The reforms undertaken by the kingdom to empower women since the launch of Vision 2030 has helped the Saudi economy become more resilient. Led by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia has witnessed 90 major human rights reforms over the past few years, and women’s empowerment constitutes the largest share of these reforms.

For two years in a row, Saudi Arabia has achieved notable progress in “Women, Business and the Law Report”, a global measure of women legal reforms published by the World Bank. On a scale of 1 to 100, Saudi Arabia scored 80 in WBL 2021, up from 70.6 in WBL 2020. Our scores in the indicators of mobility, workplace, pay, entrepreneurship, and pension put us on par with many advanced economies with long traditions of women legal reforms.

This achievement builds on landmark changes in Saudi Arabia, including empowering women with the right to vote and run as candidates in municipal elections in 2015 and the right to drive in 2017. In 2018, Saudi Arabia criminalised sexual harassment in public and private sector employment. Legal amendments now protect women from discrimination in employment, including job advertisements and hiring, and prohibit employers from dismissing a woman during her pregnancy and maternity leave. Saudi Arabia also equalised the retirement age for women and men at 60 years, extending women’s working lives, earnings, and contributions. And, most recently, the Saudi Ministry of Defence has opened its doors for women to join the armed forces.

The elimination of all restrictions on women’s employment in industrial jobs, such as mining, construction, and manufacturing, has already translated into key changes on the ground. The overall rate of women’s participation in the labour market increased from 22 per cent to nearly 30 per cent in the last two years. The growth in certain sectors has been very impressive. For instance, the proportion of women staff at the Saudi Industrial Development Fund increased from zero to 17 per cent in just three years. Today, the industrial sector offers more than 39,000 job opportunities to women, a rate of 37 per cent of nationalisation of jobs.

In fact, the private sector registered a 130 per cent increase in the number of working Saudi women during the last four years. Today 30 per cent of the total Saudi work force in the private sector is represented by women. This progress will certainly gain more momentum in future. Women represent 58 per cent of university students in Saudi Arabia, with science, technology and engineering being their preferred subjects of choice that they further pursue overseas. The talent pool will add to the intellectual capital of Saudi Arabia.

Reforms tend to have a multiplier effect. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Justice had earlier approved four landmark decisions in support of women’s rights pertaining to protecting minors, divorcees, women who have custody of their children and law graduates. Those reforms have led to an increase in the number of licenced female lawyers in the Kingdom by 66 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019. The Ministry of Justice has created a women’s department. As thousands of women attend programmes run by the Justice Training Centre, many more will enter the legal workforce.

Women entrepreneurship has also been encouraged by prohibiting gender-based discrimination in accessing financial services. As a result, the number of women-owned companies in the Kingdom increased by 60 per cent in the past two years.

Empowerment is not only about creating job opportunities but also about providing a conducive environment to nurture talent. Our efforts in this direction continue unabated. To keep pace with the need of the digital labour market, two digital colleges have been opened in Riyadh and Jeddah to offer women specialised training programmes in network systems management, Internet of Things, smart cities, robotics technology and artificial intelligence. The Transportation Program for Working Women (Wusool), which provides 80 per cent subsidy, has over 10,000 registered Saudi female employees. The programme not only aims to find solutions to reduce transportation costs for Saudi women working in the private sector but also to improve and develop the environment needed to transport women from and to workplaces, by ensuring high-safety and high-quality transportation service in partnership with private taxi companies using licenced smart apps.

Today, women hold decision-making positions in the public and private sectors, assuming important roles such as deputy minister, ambassador, university director, and chairperson of the board of directors in a number of companies. Women have broken the proverbial glass ceiling across sectors — Saudi Arabia now has its first female professional racing driver, award-winning women film producers and women judges.

We are committed to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to women at the global level and strongly support an inclusive approach that empowers women in the economic, social, health, educational, technological, and cultural sectors, among others. The Saudi G20 Presidency worked with the theme of “Realising Opportunities of the 21st Century for All”, and accorded special attention to discussing policies related to women, through engagement groups and various ministerial meetings. The Saudi leadership of G20 ensured the participation of women in decision-making by sharing recommendations of the Women 20 Engagement Group (W20) in the G20 meetings. A number of tailored initiatives such as the “Empowerment and Progression of Women’s Economic Representation” (EMPOWER) have been launched to tackle the challenges facing women.

Women empowerment will continue to be at the heart of our ongoing efforts to realise the Vision 2030 goals and to bring about a prosperous future for all.

The writer is Ambassador to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in India

This article was first published in Indian Express

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Vision 2030 puts Saudi women in the driver’s seat

08/03/21

Saudi Ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar speaks at an event. (Supplied)

The new goals set on the horizon are leadership, direction and making an impact on the future
RIYADH: As we mark International Women’s Day, we see the new highs Saudi women have soared to since the launch of Vision 2030 in the Kingdom.
Reforms have changed the narrative surrounding women’s empowerment from inclusivity and equality to notability and distinction. Women’s accomplishments as part of Vision 2030 have set the stage for the further success and achievement of young female leaders in the Kingdom.
The goals of Saudi women are no longer equality or equal opportunity, but rather surpassing their counterparts in ideology, accomplishments and innovation across all sectors. In doing so, they have paved the way for a young and determined generation of future female leaders. These innovative accomplishments are all due to the stepping stones laid out by Vision 2030’s extensive social reforms for women.
Now, Saudi women are ambassadors, general managers, directors of private entities, government spokespersons and more. Their voices are now heard wide and clear across the world.
As of February 2021, women are earning ranks in the Kingdom’s armed forces and holding positions of leadership, including as sergeants commanding teams of soldiers in the Saudi Arabian Army, Royal Saudi Air Defense, Royal Saudi Navy, Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force and Armed Forces Medical Services.
It is simply no longer the aim of Saudi women to hope for inclusivity in society and the workplace. The new goals set on the horizon are leadership, direction and making an impact on the future of the Kingdom, whether through financial growth, social reform, or paving the way for new generations of women to succeed.

Vision 2030’s initiatives and reforms have not only affected the careers of women, but also their social lives — amplifying voices that were not always able to be heard. Legal reforms have been amended by Vision 2030 to ensure the rights of divorced women. An alimony fund was created to support women and their children during court proceedings, and women are now able to enter judicial departments independently without the past restriction of having a guardian present. In the past, judgments meant women had to return back to their homes without any objections, but since Vision 2030, these regulations are a literal thing of the past — a historic blimp in the bright future ahead.
It is no exaggeration to say that when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was appointed in his position in 2017, promises were made and delivered.
Women are involved in the workforce, driving on the roads and are more independent, particularly with the relaxing of the guardianship law last year. Tools such as the sexual harassment law were put in place to ensure their safety, and they found complete support from the government in facilitating their ambitions, including being appointed to high positions.
In July 2020, under a royal decree by King Salman, 13 women were appointed to serve on the Saudi Human Rights Commission, making half of the commission female. This decision gave women a louder voice and a foundation through which to make an impact in the Kingdom.
Women are now a driving force in growing the Kingdom’s alternative economic resources, and over the past decade there has been a surge in the number of female entrepreneurs, business owners and CEOs.

HIGHLIGHTS
• Saudi women are now ambassadors, general managers, directors of private entities, government spokespersons and more.

• As of February 2021, women are earning ranks in the Kingdom’s armed forces and holding positions of leadership.

• An alimony fund was created to support women and their children during court proceedings.

• Women are now able to enter judicial departments independently without the past restriction of having a guardian present.

• In July 2020, under a royal decree by King Salman, 13 women were appointed to serve on the Saudi Human Rights Commission.

Dr. Maliha Hashmi, executive director for the health and wellbeing sector of the NEOM megacity project, is a young female health leader in the region. She said that Vision 2030 has created the opportunity for women to build new roles and transform older expectations in a positive way.

“Through Vision 2030, social acceptance, and most of all, the continuous support of the government, we’ll see a balanced leadership, in both the private and public sectors, represented by both men and women. Plus, I’m very optimistic that we’ll witness in the near future more women in ministerial and international representation,” she said.
“Under the visionary leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has taken a giant step forward in empowering its women. While the world knows and talks about women drivers on Saudi roads, there’s more to this socio-economic and cultural change than meets the eye,” Hashmi, a Harvard doctorate degree holder, told Arab News.
“More high-tech startups can now be owned by women. There are now female diplomats in the GCC. I am super excited that this started in Saudi Arabia with Princess Reema bint Bandar as the first Saudi female ambassador. I am also honored to represent NEOM as one of its leading female executives. I hope this passion within me for this amazing project is contagious and is an encouragement for other young women to join, and that I can serve as a great role model for them.”
Vision 2030 has changed the dynamic of the Kingdom and not only opened it to the world, but also to many Saudis.
Women from the Kingdom are now seen traveling around the world and exploring new cultures without the obligatory presence of a male guardian, due to a decree allowing women to obtain their own passports and travel over the age of 21 without a male guardian.
Vision 2030 gave women the right to drive, planting the seeds that led to the emergence of the first professional female racing driver, Reema Al-Juffali. The reforms also created equal opportunity in science, and pushed women scientists into the limelight, such as Nouf Al-Numair, a “DNA decoder” who researches the early detection of emerging diseases through gene mutation. This is only a glimpse into the world of achievements female leaders in Saudi Arabia have created as a result of empowerment in the Kingdom.
It is evident that the fast changes led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have also had a global impact. For the second year in a row, the “Women, Business and the Law 2021” report by the World Bank Group listed Saudi Arabia as one of the top countries for economic inclusion and women’s reform.
One woman who has benefited from the changes is Noura Al-Dossary. Orphaned at a young age and divorced with one daughter, Al-Dossary was in a predicament. Her sister and her brother-in-law helped her, but she soon realized she had to support both herself and her daughter financially.
“Vision 2030 opened doors for me that I thought were bolted shut,” she told Arab News. Coming from a conservative background, and with limited education, she ventured into various workplaces, and soon found work at a small college. However, she was unsatisfied with the pay, the work atmosphere and the lack of insurance and benefits. But an opportunity soon presented itself in a laundry department at a five-star hotel.
She was attentive to detail, eager to learn and grateful for the opportunity. “I was exposed to a different world. I met people from diverse nationalities, mixed with the opposite gender and quickly learned English on the job — something I never dreamed of.”
Al-Dossary’s workplace enrolled her in courses to not only further her career, but also her character. “I felt invested in it,” she said, a sentiment that many Saudi women share. “People tell me: ‘Oh, but you work in laundry.’ But let me tell you something: I’m proud of myself.”
There are many women like Al-Dossary who have succeeded in their own right. They may not appear in the headlines, but they are a vital part of Saudi society.
“I’m able to financially support my family, have insurance and benefits, and I bought a home,” said Al-Dossary. “None of this would have been possible without Vision 2030. I am independent and I finally found the support I needed to realize my dreams.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia opens military recruitment to women

Time: 21 February 2021

All applicants must have a clean record and be medically fit for service. (Supplied)

Defense Ministry adds extra criteria for female applicants; ranks from soldier to sergeant will be available

JEDDAH: Women can now join Saudi Arabia’s armed forces, following a ruling by the Saudi Ministry of Defense that opened the way for both genders to sign up through a unified admission portal starting Sunday.

Military ranks from soldier to sergeant will be available in the Saudi Arabian Army, Royal Saudi Air Defense, Royal Saudi Navy, Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force, and Armed Forces Medical Services.
All applicants must pass admission procedures according to specified conditions, have a clean record and be medically fit for service. But some additional criteria have been added for female applicants.
Saudi female applicants must be between the age of 21 and 40 years old, have a height of 155 cm or taller, and cannot be a government employee. Female submissions must also hold an independent national identity card and have at least a high school education. Applicants married to non-Saudi citizens will not be accepted.
The age range for first-time male applicants is between 17 and 40 while their minimum height is 160 cm. There were mixed reactions to the ministry’s new unified recruitment standards.

FASTFACTS
• Military ranks from soldier to sergeant will be available in the Saudi Arabian Army, Royal Saudi Air Defense, Royal Saudi Navy, Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force, and Armed Forces Medical Services.• Saudi female applicants must be between the age of 21 and 40 years old, have a height of 155 cm or taller, and cannot be a government employee.

• Female submissions must also hold an independent national identity card and have at least a high school education. Applicants married to non-Saudi citizens will not be accepted.

Operating systems specialist, Halah Al-Ynabawi, said Arab countries allowing women in the military has been a controversial topic over the past 30 years.
“But today, with the vision of King Salman, he has played a big role with the inclusion of women in all fields — governmental and now military,” she told Arab News.
“In my personal opinion, it is very important for women to be in the military, where they can have an active role in our conservative society.” Rahma Al-Khayri, an information technology specialist, shared a different point of view.
“Throughout history, we have not heard of a woman who came to the field and fought,” she said. “We always hear about women healing people, or perhaps monitoring supplies in the administration and in the control units. The man is the one who fights in the field.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia to appoint women as court judges ‘very soon’

17/01/21

A “Saudi woman assuming a position of judge is very soon. There are initiatives on several levels.” (File/AP)

Al-Zahid reiterated the Kingdom’s eagerness to pursue women empowerment
She pointed out international markers that have proven Saudi Arabia’s progress on women’s rights
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia will “soon” be appointing women as court judges, an official said, in continued social reforms over the past years.
Hind al-Zahid, undersecretary for women’s empowerment at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, said a “Saudi woman assuming a position of judge is very soon. There are initiatives on several levels.”
In an interview with Al-Arabiya, Al-Zahid reiterated the Kingdom’s eagerness to pursue women empowerment, particularly in allowing women to participate in diverse fields.
She pointed out international markers that have proven Saudi Arabia’s progress on women’s rights, particularly noting Saudi women’s participation in the Kingdom’s labor market has exceeded expectations.
Their participation rate today has reached 31 percent, and this is a very big progress. As for the civil service sectors, the Saudi women’s participation rate has increased from 39 percent to 41 percent, and most of them are in the education and health sectors in addition to other sectors,” al-Zahid said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Female participation in sports up 150% in Saudi Arabia

Time: 01 January 2021

  • 12 Saudi women now in prominent international sporting positions

JEDDAH:  Female participation in sport in Saudi Arabia has shot up by almost 150 percent since 2015, the Kingdom’s sports minister revealed.
Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal said far-reaching changes as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan and the influence of Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan have been major factors in contributing to the success.
The minister hailed the princess as a great role model who had inspired her peers and country
through her sporting achieve- ments, playing a crucial part in promoting mass participation in sports and carrying out important work on the board and as a member of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) women and sports committee.
Princess Reema recently took part in the first Gender Equity and Women Leadership Forum, organized by the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) and the International Taekwondo Federation, that targeted women’s welfare in sports.
Following her lead, many female achievers have been elected as members of international sports organizations.

These have included Princess Haifa bint Mohammed, who became chair of the women’s committee of the Arab Union, and Princess Reham bint Saif Al-Islam who was appointed as a member of the Arab Swimming Federa- tion’s women’s committee.
The Kingdom’s first female boxing coach, Rasha Al-Khamis, became a member of the women’s committee for the Asian boxing organization, Abrar Bukhari sat on the women’s committee of the Asian Taekwondo Federation, and Sarah Al-Fayez was elected a member of the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) media committee.
Asma Al-Yamani, meanwhile, became a member of the World Tennis Tour Committee, Aseel Al-Hamad was nominated a member of the Women in Motor- sports Committee at the Interna- tional Motorsports Federation, and Haya Al-Dossary took on the role as a marketing committee member for West Asia of the International Table Tennis Federation.
In addition, Adwaa Al-Arifi became a member of the AFC and Arab Football Confederation, and Dr. Razan Baker was appointed chairperson of the International Bowling Federation’s women in sports committee.

Saudi sportswomen have also notched up around 100 medals in events at regional and interna- tional levels.
Fencing topped the list for Saudi female sporting achievements. The sport’s federation has been one of the leaders in investing in the training of women of all ages, with academies in Jeddah, Riyadh, and the Eastern Province.
Fencing has delivered around 29 medals including four bronzes in the epee event at the 2016 Arab Games held in Riyadh. In 2018, Saudi fencers bagged one silver and three bronze medals at the Juniors Arab Fencing Champion- ship in Jordan, and in the same year they brought home a bronze from the Arab Fencing Championship in Tunisia.
In Kuwait’s 2019 junior fencing championship, they scooped one gold, one silver, and five bronzes, and collected a gold and two bronzes in the Asian Qualifying Round of Fencing Champion- ship in the same year in Riyadh.
In 2020, they won two silver medals at the Arab Women Sports Tournament in Sharjah, and one silver and two bronze medals in Manama’s Junior and Youth Fencing Championship.
At the Virtual Confederation Championship, the women’s fencing team secured single gold, silver, and bronze medals.
Second place went to the judokas with 15 medals, all won in 2019. Two golds, two silvers, and eight bronzes were from the Estonia International Judo Championship; a gold, silver, and bronze came in the West Asian Judo Championship.
Not to be outdone in third place were the taekwondo ladies with one gold, two silvers, and four bronzes from the 2019 and 2020 GCC and Arab Taekwondo championships.
Tied at fourth place with four medals each were the female equestrians and weightlifters.
Equestrienne Dalma Malhas gave Saudi Arabia its first bronze medal at the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore. Riders also collected two more bronzes and one silver at the Sharjah tournament in 2020.
The women weightlifters snatched their two golds, one silver, and one bronze in Gulf tournaments and the West Asian Championship.
Other sports where Saudi women broke into the medal column were: Rowing, through Kariman Abujadail, who won a gold medal at the Gulf Rowing tournament in Sharjah in 2020; boxing courtesy of Najd Fahad with a gold at the virtual Univer- sity World Cup in 2020 and Dona Alghamdi with another gold at the International Leaders Champi- onship in 2018 in Jordan; kick boxing through Zahra Alqurashi, who claimed first place at the International Clubs Champion- ship in mixed martial arts in 2019 in Jordan; and archery, from its women’s team that clinched bronze during the Sharjah Arab Women Sports tournament in 2020.
Elsewhere, the Saudi women football leagues were inaugurated, and saw participation of 10 teams last November in three cities. The football federation, in collaboration with the Leaders Development Institute, offered coaching courses to create oppor- tunities for Saudi women who were keen to become professional football coaches without the need to travel abroad.
The Saudi Archery Federation also launched a tournament featuring more than 25 women archers.

This article was first published in Arab News

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120% rise in female employees in Saudi industries

Time: 08 December 2020

This picture taken on December 18, 2018 shows a view of sky-scrapers along the King Fahd Road in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (AFP)
  • MODON reveals successful female empowerment strategy

RIYADH: Saudi women are finding more employment as private and government bodies strive to reach qualified women across the Kingdom’s economic sectors.

The Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technical Zones (MODON) revealed that the number of Saudi women working in the industrial cities it oversees increased by nearly 120 percent, reaching 17,000 female workers by the end of March this year.
Khalid Al-Salem, director general of MODON, said that the authority “has come a long way” and is still striving toward women’s empowerment in the industrial sector.
He added that MODON has made the industrial sector more attractive to women through innovative financing products, services and solutions that suit their important role in the national economy. Incentives for working women include the launch of industrial oases, which are characterized by the availability of nurseries, parking spaces and medical and recreational centers.
“These oases host clean industries such as medical and food industries, rubber and high-tech industries, as well as prefabricated factories supporting women entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises,” he said.

FASTFACTS

• 12 industrial cities located in the Riyadh region have 11,750 female employees.

• 13 industrial cities located in the Western region have 3,500 women.

• 10 industrial cities located in the Eastern region have 1,750 female workers.

Al-Salem added that 2021 will see the launch of small prefabricated factories to enable women’s investments in the industrial city of Dammam, a first for the Kingdom.
“MODON continues to empower women both as an employee and as an investor by creating a model environment in partnership with the public and private sectors,” said MODON’s director general.
He added that an agreement was signed with an insurance company to provide comprehensive services for investors in industrial cities.
He said: “MODON seeks to support the productivity of women by providing an optimal environment for their work. Therefore, it signed a memorandum of understanding with a building development company to implement nursery and kindergarten programs in industrial cities and oases under the Ministry of Education’s guidance.”
Al-Salem said that the strategy to empower industry and increase local talent aims to activate the role of women in industrial development in accordance with the Saudi Vision 2030 aimed at enhancing their role in the national economy.
“MODON succeeded in increasing the number of Saudi women in industrial cities, reaching 17,000 female employees by the end of the first quarter of 2020, compared to 7,860 by the end of 2018,” he added.

This article was first published in Arab News

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