TheFace: Roaa Saber, CEO and founder of Miss Feionkah

Time: December 06, 2019

I was born in a well-rooted and highly educated family in Jeddah. I am the eldest of three siblings and a mother of three boys. My grandfather on my mother’s side, Sadaqah Shaikh, is my mentor and role model.

He was a member of the board of directors at Saudi Fransi Bank, one of the few who spoke French fluently at the time, and a successful businessman in the field of medical supplies.

My other grandfather, Hussain Saber, was an author and writer in Jeddah in the 1970s. My father Saud Saber, whom I have always admired, worked at Saudi Aramco.

He and my mother, Basmah Shaikh, traveled together and lived in various countries, which enabled them to experience different cultures and cuisines.

As a little kid I heard stories about my grandfathers, and observed the art of my mother’s cooking and her mixing of different cuisines with love.

The energy and success I saw in my father influenced me greatly. My maternal grandfather used to teach me the alphabet and the art of business management.

All these influences made me the person I am, and inspired my luxury chocolate business Miss Feionkah, which I founded in 2009. With a team of more than 19 female staff members, Miss Feionkah manufactures and distributes its products all over the Kingdom, including to big companies, private jets and airlines. I learned the art of chocolate-making from Belgian chefs, and I added Saudi flavors. My goal is to reach the global market.

I am also a member of the Young Women’s Business Council in the Eastern Province’s Chamber of Commerce. I live by the motto “just do it,” and strongly encourage all fellow female entrepreneurs to do the same. If you are passionate about something, just go for it.

Throughout my career, I have learned that resilience and a positive mindset are half the battle, and you never know what you are capable of until you try.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Adhari Al-Khalidi becomes first Saudi woman to participate in King Abdulaziz Falconry Festival

Time: December 04, 2019

Adhari Al-Khaldi took part in the 400-meter Al-Milwah competition with her falcon, Sattam. (SPA)
  • Adhari Al-Khaldi said she hopes to show that Saudi women are capable of breaking stereotypes and becoming professional falconers
  • Al-Khalidi said that she has faced many challenges since she started practicing falconry a decade ago, but her passion for the sport gave her resilience

RIYADH: Saudi falconer Adhari Al-Khaldi of Sakakah city has become the first woman to participate in the King Abdulaziz Falconry Festival.

Al-Khalidi took part in the 400-meter Al-Milwah competition with her falcon, Sattam. She said she hopes to show that Saudi women are capable of breaking stereotypes and becoming professional falconers.

Al-Khalidi said that she has faced many challenges since she started practicing falconry a decade ago, but her passion for the sport gave her resilience and enabled her to defy her detractors and not give up. She added that her family and her husband have always believed in her and supported her.

The King Abdulaziz Falconry Festival continues until Dec. 16 in Malham, north of Riyadh. The prizes amount to around SR21 million.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Tough origins shaped future of Saudi women in media

Time: December 04, 2019

According to Al-Bakr, one of the main obstacles women had at the time was that they did not have the history or knowledge of what was acceptable to Saudi society, which left female presenters treading a fine line. (Saudi Media Forum)
  • It is important that this generation knows our history, not just in the media but in all sectors

RIYADH: From writing under pen names to not knowing how to dress appropriately or work with male colleagues, three Saudi female journalists have recalled the difficulties their predecessors faced working in the media during a session titled “Saudi women in media: Presence and representation” at the Saudi Media Forum (SMF) on Tuesday.
“In the past, there were many concerns,” one of the panelists, writer Dr. Fawzia Al-Bakr, said.
According to Al-Bakr, one of the main obstacles women had at the time was that they did not have the history or knowledge of what was acceptable to Saudi society, which left female presenters treading a fine line.
However, said Al-Bakr, the government was always supportive of women in the media — King Faisal was the first to help them emerge in the field via radio in the 1970s.
There were supportive Saudi male journalists, too, who used to write under female pen names to help pave the way for their colleagues, such as Ahmed Siba’i who wrote in The Voice of Hjiaz publication under the pen name “Hijazi girl.”
Al-Bakr cited the progress of the country, from women being able to drive, to having passports issued and their active participation in the workforce. “We have a historical responsibility today,” she said.
Omaima Al-Khamis, a Saudi journalist, said: “Female media existence in Saudi Arabia was hidden. In the beginning, their presence wasn’t accepted but slowly it came to be.”
Small steps forward go a long way towards reaching goals of being active, equal members of the media world, she added.
Al-Khamis noted that the first news outlet to have a women’s section was Riyadh Newspaper in 1989 — a time when media/journalism was not an option for women in colleges and universities.
“Of course, there were difficulties and obstacles, but they continued forward and persevered,” she said, adding: “The challenges are real and big, but let’s move forward not just locally, or regionally, but globally.”
Saudi women in the western media are misrepresented, according to Maha Akeel, director of the information department at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
“For the longest period, the Saudi woman’s voice was absent, so now we must speak. Vision 2030 has enabled us to. It’s difficult to change years of absence, but it must be done,” she said.
“There was always a gap. There would be someone to speak on a Saudi woman’s behalf in the past, but she was absent. That gave the western media (a chance) to create a narrative,” she added.
Most westerners, she said, assume that the identity of the Saudi woman is a burqa-clad female in black. While that is the case for some, it is not for all.
“Now we have support to empower and enable women,” she said.
She added that studying the journeys of pioneers is an essential part of learning a nation’s past and where its people have come from. “It is important that this generation knows our history, not just in the media but in all sectors.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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TheFace: Hala Abdulaziz Aseel, Saudi campaigner for awareness of mental health wellness

Time: November 29, 2019

Hala Abdulaziz Aseel and her children. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
  • Aseel was one of the founding members of Zahra Breast Cancer Association
  • She also co-founded a psychoeducation support group called “Blossom,” which helps cancer survivors adjust to life

I was born in Jeddah and I am the eldest of five children — I have two sisters and two brothers.

My father married my mother when she was in the 10th grade, and she stopped her education to become a wife and a mother, but she never gave up on her dream of graduating high school. And when I was in my second year of college, I actually attended my mother’s high school graduation.

I spent most of my childhood living between Saudi Arabia and the US. My father was a general in the Royal Saudi Air Force, and in 1984 he was appointed to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, the city I called home for almost 20 years.

I completed most of my education in the US. I received my high school diploma from the Islamic Saudi Academy, my bachelor’s degree in psychology from American University and my master’s degree in community counseling from George Washington University.

Raising Muslim children when you’re surrounded by Western culture is quite a challenge, but my parents made sure that we were exposed to what American culture had to offer, while having a strong bond to our religion and culture. They made sure to speak to us in Arabic so that we did not lose our mother language. I have always thought of it as getting the best of both worlds.

My parents were always an inspiration: Creating a home and a stable family life for us while they were thousands of miles away from their own families. I learned great lessons from them. From my father, Gen. Abdulaziz Aseel, I learned hard work, dedication and having a strong character. From my mother, Thoria Etaiwi, I learned patience, kindness and selflessness.

As a child, moving back and forth was not easy. Constantly changing schools, friends, location and homes. There was a lack of stability but, reflecting on it now, I realize it has shaped me into the person I am today. It made me adaptable to the curve balls that life throws. In addition, my interaction with people of different races, religions and cultures has made me more accepting and tolerant.

Moving back home was bittersweet, because I left one home for another.  But I soon found my place among family, friends and colleagues.

I began my career at the National Guard Hospital, where I worked for seven years. That was the bridge between the knowledge I gained in the US and applying it to help people in my country.

After seven years in a government hospital, I decided to target the private sector. For the past 10 years, I have worked at Psych Care Clinics as a mental health counselor. The focuses of my practice are adolescents and adult females with various mental disorders and social problems.

The evolution of mental health development in Saudi Arabia over the past 20 years has been remarkable to witness. The increase in awareness of the importance of mental health has been very fast — it has changed from being a taboo subject to a well-recognized field.

In 2007, I was one of the founding members of Zahra Breast Cancer Association. Being part of this amazing organization and working with such dedicated women gives me great pride. I also co-founded a psychoeducation support group called “Blossom,” which helps cancer survivors adjust to life after completing their treatment. The group teaches patients that there is a life after cancer full of hope and new dreams.

That is something I understand well, as my mother is a cancer survivor. Seeing her go through that journey while far away from her family has increased my empathy for cancer patients and their loved ones. I hope that I can be a helping hand for these women fighting cancer and let them know that no one needs to struggle alone.

I am a proud wife and a mother of three. I feel very lucky to be married to a man that I can call my friend, supporter and confidant. My pride and joy are Aljudy (15), Yousif (12) and Lana (8).

Being a mother has taught me unconditional love and patience. It has made me a better human and a role model they can be proud of. Motherhood has taught me to live in the moment and enjoy life for its simplicity.

In the future, I hope that my kids will get to live their dreams and grow into individuals who care about giving back to their country and helping it grow.

I hope to continue to be part of the growth of the mental health field and to see Saudi Arabia become one of the leading countries in research and new treatments. I also hope to develop my own private practice that not only focuses on treatment but also on raising awareness of mental health wellness.

And I hope a cure for cancer will be found soon, to end the struggle of thousands of people.

This article was first published in Arab News

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TheFace: Princess Abeer S. Al-Saud, pioneer in international development and peacebuilding

Time: November 22, 2019

Image for Princess Abeer S Alsaud with her grandfather Prince Meshari bin Saud Farharn Al Saud. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
  • Princess Abeer is the founder and chairwoman of Talga, an NGO, a think tank and bookstore specializing in development books
  • She spearheaded a peace-building unit in Saudi Arabia by training more than 80 Saudi professionals from 16 ministries

I was raised in a family that encourages intellectual pursuit and a love for culture and arts. Most notably, I have a very close relationship with my grandfather, Prince Meshari bin Saud bin Nasser bin Farhan Al-Saud, who is one of the most influential people in my life.

Ever since I was a child, I spent a lot of time listening attentively to the stories my grandfather passionately recounted. He mostly spoke about the history and ancient glory of Diriyah, the hometown of my ancestors and his birthplace, Saudi Arabia.

To my grandfather, our history, identity and culture are our most valuable treasures. The regular intergenerational dialogue between us made me recognize the importance of appreciating the past while at the same time looking forward to the future and also understand the importance of adapting to modernity instead of adopting it, and this, in my opinion, is what makes the Kingdom’s approach to modernity and the future unique.

My close relationship with my grandfather planted the seeds to my never-ending pursuit of knowledge in a wide range of topics. I was always fascinated by one of his personal endeavors in life, which led him to have a very profound and rare collection of letters, pictures and books in his personal archives.

After graduating from high school, I took a gap year to explore and pursue my passions and took a journey of self-discovery to Southeast Asia.

While touring the Mekong Delta from Saigon to the remote island of Phu Quoc, I witnessed true poverty in floating villages. However, where there was poverty, there were also vast untouched opportunities — the local villagers were unknowingly entrepreneurs; they were skilled craftsmen building handicrafts and the region was abundant with untapped resources and inactivated industries.

With proper training, a system would be established and the villagers could catalyze economic growth by exporting products and beautifying local services. I understood that poverty is not the only challenge standing in the face of progress and socioeconomic improvement, but one of many related problems.

My visit to Vietnam catalyzed my interest in sustainable development. I became interested in creating innovative, culturally relevant sustainable solutions. At first, I wanted to understand how to create sustainable socioeconomic growth, how public-private partnerships worked and how multilaterals impact the developing world. I had a lot of questions but few answers.

I came to understand that poverty, lack of financial support and minimal adequate mentorship stand in the way of progression. In developed countries, consumerism that is not balanced with production prevents sustainable progress. Achieving truly sustainable socioeconomic progress anywhere is more complex than applying small projects or initiatives. Our shared efforts to bring good to our societies and contribute to development is best achieved through a system of moral responsibility, which I believe is the building block for anything that is truly sustainable.

To apply a comprehensive model for sustainable goals we must adopt moral responsibility as the main infrastructure, apply an integrated approach and promote inclusive communities.

An integrated approach that covers development aspects with all its dimensions — from social needs and cultural beliefs to moral conceptions and modern-day demands — is essential for harvesting a fertile soil. This will ensure that our objectives, which will be achieved by establishing positively inclusive communities, will thrive and bloom as long as the essential elements were present when the seeds were planted.

I have a bachelor’s degree in life sciences with a focus on Neuroaesthetics from a joined program from Al-Faisal University/University College London (UCL).

My undergraduate work is why my interests are combined with aesthetics, literature, architecture and art. I collect Indochina art.

I am also currently a part-time master’s student at SOAS studying international development.

Aside from academia, I love sailing and horses.

I am currently a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) seconded peace-building advisor to Ambassador Mohammed Al-Jaber. I have been working on peace-building since 2016 at the GCC Secretariat. I have been the technical lead for the GCC-UK Manama Summit and was a member of the communique drafting committee. I also managed technical bilateral relations with European countries and was the lead on the GCC-UK Strategic Partnership, working on all areas of cooperation from security and defence, to trade and investment, cultures and art, where during my posting I successfully created an ecosystem for proper usage of development funds in the GCC region by encouraging the participation and adherence to international benchmarks of development. I also endorsed the UN Security Council’s “Call of Action to End Modern Slavery,” which Saudi Arabia is among the few countries to have endorsed.

As part of my current job as a peace-building policy and advocacy lead, I spearheaded and led a nationwide stabilization initiative that aims to establish the ecosystem of this field to Saudi civil servants at a national level through building the capacities of more than 80 local development professionals from 16 ministries. Seventy percent of the participants were youths and 40 percent were women — achieving UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. This is done through educational workshops with development agencies like the US Agency for International Development, the UK’s Department for International Development, Germany’s Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, the UN Development Programme and Japan International Cooperation Agency.

So far I planned and executed two intensive, five-day Saudi-US workshops on stabilization and a three-day intensive Saudi-UK workshop on peace-building that was attended by more than 80 people from within 16 ministries across Saudi Arabia. In addition, I have delivered a training of trainers deep-dive workshop on stabilization with the US and the UK, where a key Saudi cadre was selected to train Saudis in the future, hence localizing and sustaining the knowledge.

I am also a member of the C2 and W20 2020 drafting committee and actively involved in the civil society sector.

Aside from professional work, and driven by the desire to make communities, countries and environments better, I founded Talga. It is a non-governmental organization, a creative think tank and an independent bookstore specializing in development. Talga is the local name for the resilient Fiscus Vasta tree located in the Emirate of Asir region. It lived for more than 1,500 years under harsh conditions, representing one of our main values: To encourage our community to thrive and not merely survive. Its objective is to create a platform for development where different programs are designed to encourage the vibrant Saudi youth to take on impactful initiatives in their communities, planting seeds of fruitful gardens. We also have the ambition to serve the ecosystem of the third sector in the Kingdom. This is done by partnerships and improving the performance of the already existing providers and introducing a new innovative and integrated approach to development.

In my work, and through Talga, we aspire to maximize our contributions to achieving sustainable impact and address the growing complex challenges we face by encouraging philanthropies, NGOs, corporations and governments to bridge the wide gap between innovation experts and thinkers, to achieve practical solutions. Imagine how much more would be achieved if the enormous potential was unlocked and if each one of us acted now upon our diverse personal interests. Yes, we will face challenges, but Saudis’ resilience towards betterment always prevails, and with that, I want to quote Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: “The young Saudis’ ambition is like Mount Twaiq, and it’s unbreakable unless it’s leveled to the ground.”

I want to emphasize the importance of the butterfly effect and aspiring to do an impactful initiative regardless of the number of people you will reach. Changing the life of one person has a ripple effect on impacting the world.

I want to conclude with a Qu’ranic verse that reads: “That man can have nothing but what he strives for; That (the fruit of) his striving will soon come in sight.” (verses 39 and 40 from Surat An-Najm).

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi female student pilot aims high with flying ambitions

Time: November 19, 2019

Student pilot Amirah Al-Saif, who hails from Riyadh, is the first in the family to have an interest in the aviation industry. (Supplied)
  • Amirah Al-Saif is among the first batch of 49 female students

DUBAI: Saudi women aiming to emulate Yasmeen Al-Maimani’s feat, the Kingdom’s first female commercial pilot, now have that opportunity as Oxford Aviation Academy has opened its doors for them to take flying lessons and earn their licenses.

One those women raring to earn her pilot wings is 19-year-old Amirah Al-Saif, who enrolled in the aviation academy to fulfill her dream of flying for the Kingdom’s national carrier Saudi Airlines (Saudia).

“They have been very supportive of us females,” Al-Saif, who hails from Riyadh, told Arab News at the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow, when asked about her experience at the academy.

Al-Saif is among the first batch of 49 female students, with six of them already in ground school, expected to receive their licenses by the start of 2021 after a grueling course that requires them to first learn English, Mathematics, Physics and other basic knowledge subjects.

She is also the first in the family to have an interest in the aviation industry.

Student pilot Amirah Al-Saif, right, who hails from Riyadh, is the first in the family to have an interest in the aviation industry. (Supplied)

Those who pass the foundation program can then move on to ground school for practical lessons and ideally graduate in two years with three licenses: the Private Pilot License, Instrument Rating and Commercial Pilot License.

Al-Saif considers herself lucky since she was not constrained take courses abroad for her pilot training, unlike Al-Maimani who had to leave the Kingdom to receive her license, as well as wait for a long time before being eventually hired by Nesma Airlines.

The flying school is located at the King Fahd International Airport in Dammam and is an authorized branch of Oxford Aviation Academy based in the UK.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Princess Sora bint Saud Al-Saud, Saudi philanthropist and entrepreneur

18/11/19

Princess Sora bint Saud Al-Saud

Princess Sora bint Saud Al-Saud is a philanthropist and entrepreneur. She is the granddaughter of the late King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud.

Princess Sora attained her BA in psychology from the American University, Washington, DC, in 2015.

Her philanthropic leadership experience includes establishing Ahyaha Foundation in partnership with her husband Prince Abdul Aziz bin Talal Al-Saud. The foundation focuses on improving the community through sustainable, creative, and social programs on youth and education, sustainable development, water resources and traffic safety and awareness.

On an international level, she became an honorary ambassador for Mentor International in 2017, a youth advocacy program chaired by Queen Silvia of Sweden.

Her participation within the foundation include her joining Queen Silvia and Princess Madeleine at the Mentor Foundation USA’s International Gala in 2012, and co-chairing the 2018 In Light of Youth Benefit Dinner in the presence of Queen Silvia.

On Sunday, Princess Sora sponsored the celebration of the foundation’s 25th anniversary at the Swedish Embassy in Washington, DC, on behalf of Queen Silvia.

In her speech, Princess Sora praised the vision and efforts of Queen Silvia, pointing out that the impact of the Foundation has reached more than 80 countries and helped more than 6 million children and adolescents through programs that contributed to empower and develop their talents and keep them away from dangerous drugs and behavior.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Princess Haifa Al-Saud, vice president at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage

15/11/19

Princess Haifa Al-Saud has been the vice president of strategy at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) since March 2019, and the secretary-general of Formula E Holdings since July 2018. She is also vice chairperson of the Saudi Fencing Federation and chairperson of the women’s committee at the Arab Fencing Federation.

Princess Haifa attained her bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of New Haven in 2008, and her master’s in business administration from the London Business School in 2017. She started her career at HSBC Holdings as an analyst, progressing to senior associate of equity sales before leaving in 2012 to join the Ministry of Higher Education as a senior consultant. She was also managing director of the General Sports Authority between 2017 and 2019.

Recently Princess Haifa spoke at the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh on a panel about the evolving nature of the workplace and the challenges the new generation faces. Princess Haifa said that an important skill in the modern world is adaptability.

Princess Haifa reflected on what she had learned during her career journey, from the early days working for HSBC Bank — when she felt she was treated as something of an oddity — to her current prominent role in the growing Saudi tourism sector.

“As a woman, it was very challenging,” she said. “Women today don’t realize how much they have as employees. The government is pro-youth. My advice to you is seek opportunity, expand your mind, work in different industries. There are no more barriers.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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TheFace: Najla Abdullah, Saudi business leader

Time: November 15, 2019 

Najla Abdullah. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)

Najla Abdullah I am an executive member of the Young Businesswomen Council at the Asharqia Chamber. I am also a certified artist trainer and I am attending the Academy of Learning in Dammam, where I am studying public relations and media.

I have founded a number of art initiatives and projects. Art is in my blood. It is the field where I think I can inspire others and leave a good impression.

I am 32 years old, and I was born in Dhahran to a family interested in education and developing hobbies. My father studied business administration in the US while my mother specialized in geography. I am the middle child of nine —  I have four sisters and four brothers. We are a family of with a wide range of interests; my parents gave us the freedom to choose what to study, encouraging us to choose academic and career paths that would suit our personalities.

I began my elementary schooling at the Fifth Primary School before joining the Third Middle School. After that, I attended the secondary-level section of King Abdul Aziz National Schools in Alkhobar.

Following my high school graduation, I took a number of engineering, art and fashion courses before continuing my academic journey.

I am always ready to try new things. I like to experience things that may not be in my field of work — I am always seeking new information and knowledge. Whenever I finish a certain project, I’m usually already thinking about the next one.

To me, work should also mean fun. It is important that I enjoy what I’m doing. Otherwise, I’ll try a more joyful thing.

Art is in my blood. It is the field where I think I can inspire others and leave a good impression.

As an art aficionado whose job mainly relies on visual feedback and the aesthetic aspects of life, I try to shift unpleasant situations around me into something beautiful and positive that can help me. Beautiful music in my workplace, for instance, makes me more productive and creative. It can also inspire me to be more innovative.

With the generous support of the deputy governor of the Eastern Province, Prince Ahmed bin Fahd Al-Saud, and the kind help of the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), I had the chance to provide an artwork for Sharqiah Season. The project was based around illuminated boats in the sea. The idea of my project was to show visitors to the region one of the city’s landmarks. I was delighted by the appreciation from both officials and visitors. That project was an achievement I will always remember with pride.

I believe the quotes of great people who have lived before us are worth heeding — they summarize years of experience. There is a particular wise saying that really resonates with me: “Life is made of experiences. So, the end of an experience is only the end of that experience, not the end of life.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Princess Aljohara Al-Saud, partner at Henning Larsen studio in Riyadh

Time: November 15, 2019 

Princess Aljohara Al-Saud

Princess Aljohara Al-Saud is a partner at Henning Larsen studio in Riyadh and has served as the design architect for a number of the Scandinavian company’s projects in Saudi Arabia and the wider region, many of which strike a balance between Arabian and Scandinavian culture.

One of the company’s first projects in the Kingdom was the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Riyadh, designed by Henning Larsen — after whom the company is named — and completed in 1984.

Princess Aljohara has a special interest in promoting women’s positions in Saudi society.

She is actively involved in a network that supports women’s ambitions of achieving executive positions in the private sector.

Princess Aljohara is also a member of the advisory board of the Alfaisal University Department of Engineering.

Recently Princess Aljohara spoke at a Misk Global Forum session called “Dinosaur or future-fit? Careers in a post-job era.” She discussed some of the hardships she faced when she first started working.

“Few organizations at that time had women in their offices,” she said. Undeterred, she “saw an opportunity and grabbed it.”

Princess Aljohara said: “I progressed and started as a junior architect. My skills gradually developed and I became a business development manager.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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