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.
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.
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.
RIYADH: More than 73,000 Saudi women in the Kingdom have benefited from mortgage loans provided by the Real Estate Development Fund (REDF) as part of its efforts to enable women to own their first home.
The general supervisor of REDF, Mansour bin Madhi, said that enabling Saudi women to own housing had been part of the fund’s policy since its inception, as they constituted half of society and were the foundation of accelerating development.
He said that the fund worked on facilitating and simplifying real estate financing procedures to empower all citizens to receive subsidized mortgage loans through electronic and immediate procedures.
The policy enabled women to own housing in accordance with the subsidized mortgage loan scheme’s terms to achieve the goals of the housing programs — one of the Saudi Vision 2030’s initiatives — which includes raising the rate of citizens’ home ownership to 60 percent by the end of 2020 and 70 percent by 2030, he said.
Recently, I was invited to an international women’s golf event, which included the Aramco Saudi Ladies Golf tournament, at the Royal Greens Golf Club at King Abdullah Economic City. The event had a strong impact on Saudi sport and tourism as the first of its kind played in the Kingdom. The tournament attracted huge audiences around the world, with extensive coverage by CNN, BBC and other major stations.
It is worth noting that the relationship between golf, women and Aramco goes back decades. Now that Aramco is a publicly listed company with global investors makes organizing such a tournament even more relevant.
Aramco’s president and CEO, Amin Al-Nasser, presented Emily Pedersen from Denmark with the trophy after she beat Georgia Hall in a thrilling playoff on the par-5 18th. As professional golf’s newest high-profile tournament, the event has helped to introduce golf to more than 1,000 women in Saudi Arabia following the launch of the Ladies First Club, an initiative to provide free golf across the Kingdom.
Watching the tournament with my four young children, I could see Vision 2030 come to life. Such events definitely enriches the touristic experience we have been craving. As the COVID-19 restrictions start to ease and the relieving news comes of a potential vaccine, the tourism sector is slowly recovering from the plunge caused by the pandemic. On the sports front, by hosting this international event, the Kingdom has scored another first for an Arab country.
The Saudi vision is focusing mainly on young people, who make up a high percentage of the population, introducing them to sports such as golf and polo. As a board member of the Saudi Polo Federation, one of our plans is to set up an academy for young riders to start learning the sport.
When I met my dear friend Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation and the host of the tournament, I told him how much my children enjoyed the event and said that I hoped they would be participants in future competitions.
There are many benefits of organizing high-profile international sports events. These include building self-esteem among young people, overcoming gender stereotypes and encouraging young women to become high achievers. Next month, I sign up my daughter Salma, who is now 12 years old, for golf classes at Royal Greens club.
Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.
LONDON: Saudi women and youth have been heavily involved in the lead up to their country’s G20 Summit, and have thus been major beneficiaries of the chance for open dialogue and inclusive policymaking, according to experts.
The annual summit gives the Kingdom a chance to reaffirm the ties that have made it the West’s key partner in the Middle East for 75 years, experts said at an online event on Tuesday hosted by British think tank Chatham House and attended by Arab News.
Saudi leadership of the G20 has had a major impact on the Kingdom’s civil society, said Dr. Hanaa Almoaibed, research fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies.
Despite the challenges of holding the summit online, the G20 is “definitely a capacity-building process for a lot of young Saudis,” she added.
“Being involved in the political process, in the policymaking process for the first time for a lot of young professionals, is a huge insight into the way international relations works.”
In addition to the flagship summit of world leaders, Saudi Arabia has also hosted over 100 smaller meetings and events addressing a range of topics including the coronavirus pandemic, digital access in the workplace and climate change.
One of the major areas that the Saudi G20 secretariat has focused on, Almoaibed said, is women’s empowerment and providing a space for Saudi women and others to voice their hopes for their country’s future.
Instrumental in this was the W20, a specific group of the G20 focused on fostering gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.
“The W20 was exciting because it really involved women from all over the country,” said Almoaibed. “It was led by a local organization that was able to bring women from all over the country to open a national dialogue, discussing the things they’d faced that had prevented them from achieving what they wanted to achieve or their own personal goals.”
The value here, she said, is that “there was a lot of trust in that format — they were able to develop an action plan for women in the country based on the challenges they face.”
The G20 has also given Saudi Arabia a platform to reiterate why it has been the West’s key regional partner for 75 years, said David Rundell, former chief of mission at the US Embassy in Riyadh.
He added that in the face of hostility from some American politicians, the Kingdom can use the G20 Summit as an opportunity to refocus global attention on what has made the US-Saudi partnership so enduring.
“Saudi Arabia has been a strong partner of both Britain and the US for 75 years. In counterterrorism cooperation, Saudi Arabia has saved American lives. In global energy markets, Saudi Arabia has frequently stabilized supply and demand when political or natural disasters disrupt things.” Rundell said.
“I think it’s fair to say in the recent past Saudi Arabia has promoted a moderate form of Islam. But most importantly for Britain and the US is that Saudi Arabia remains a power that values and promotes regional stability. Those are reasons for continued engagement.”
The flagship G20 Summit, hosted by King Salman, will take place online on Nov. 21-22.
Players will be kept entertained by a bowling alley and gyms at their hotels. (Supplied)
More than 1,500 coronavirus tests to be carried out during the events
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is welcoming back international live sports with safe zones as it prepares to hold its first professional women’s golf tournament.
“Bubbles” and a biosecure environment at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) will be in place throughout the elite-level European Ladies Tour golf tournaments that are starting from next week.
The $1 million Aramco Saudi Ladies International, presented by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, runs between Nov. 12-15, while the $500,000 Saudi Ladies Team International takes place between Nov. 17-19.
The bubbles will be home to between 500 and 600 people across three weeks, and the tournament will see more than 1,500 COVID-19 tests conducted, including at least three each for the events’ 110 players. There will also be testing for caddies and tournament staff.
Ladies European Tour players, event staff and personnel will have COVID-19 tests upon arrival in KAEC, before being permitted to enter the safe zones ahead of the tournament, where they will be in hotels for the event duration.
These measures have been implemented to ensure the health and safety of everyone, with all aspects of player and staff safety watched over by independent specialists who are experts in risk assessment and COVID-19 best practices. They include Dr. Andrew Murray, key adviser to Sport England and a technical advisor to the World
There will be daily symptom checking on everyone within the bubbles, with contingency plans in place.
Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation, said: “We have been building a safe and secure zone to bring back international sports to the Kingdom while adhering to COVID-19 precautionary measures. The area is designed to ensure that we can provide a secure environment to host Ladies European Tour golfers, but also protect the wider community. The landmark event will allow us to showcase that Saudi Arabia is ready to once again host major global events, while also developing the great game of golf and inspiring the next generation of young Saudis and Saudi golfers.”
The tournament is at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, which has been adapted to suit COVID-19 precautionary measures and will be sanitized throughout the run-up and duration of both events.
A 2-meter physical distance must be maintained at all times, with players and caddies the exception to this rule.
Away from the golf course, players will be kept entertained by a bowling alley, games room, cinema screen, gyms and swimming pools at their hotels.
Both tournaments will attract many of the world’s best golfers, with the Saudi Ladies Team International set to be the first time in women’s golf history that professionals — themselves competing in the Kingdom for the first time — will partner with amateurs in a points-earning Tour event.
The tournament marks the return of major international sporting events to the Kingdom, with the country aiming to inspire the next generation under the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan.
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s first Women’s Football League (WFL) will play an important role in Sports for All Federation’s (SFA) goal of integrating women into the Kingdom’s sports scene, said SFA President, Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud.
With preparations underway after the conclusion of registrations on Sept. 30, Prince Khaled told Arab News about the SFA’s expectations and hopes for the tournament.
“The WFL gives women the opportunity of sport upskilling, which we see as a very important part of strengthening our healthy and active community and the country’s sports ecosystem as a whole,” he said.
The SFA president views WFL as a step closer to fulfilling the SFA’s goal of getting 40 percent of society to become active by 2030. “What else can they (audiences) expect? Good, strong, fair games played by our athletes from all over the Kingdom,” he said.
Prince Khaled said that the SFA shared the sentiment of the active and health-driven segment of society about the WFL.
“Excitement, pride, and a sense of accomplishment — the public is already invested in seeing women and girls live healthy and active lives through participation in all types of sports,” he said.
Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud
“People across Saudi want to see everyone included in sports, regardless of age or capability or being female or male. Championships for any sport and any athletic pursuit is a great morale builder for the public as a whole, and is an inspirational thing to see.”
As for the SFA’s expectations of the first women’s football league, Prince Khaled said that when women joined the league they were “advocating for others to join,” as well as promoting wellness, health, fitness, inclusivity and building achievements.
The WFL has been closely supported by the Ministry of Sports, the SFA president said. He also credited those working under the Quality of Life program for their support. “The team at Quality of Life really do want to see each and every woman in Saudi be given the opportunity to pursue their passions for sports and wellness as part of our collective work toward making Vision 2030 a reality,” he said.
The Quality of Life program aims to increase the public’s participation in sports, and for them to contend in professional events regionally and globally, and create entertainment opportunities that cater to their needs by 2030.
Meanwhile, many popular women’s football teams are expected to participate in the league, including Jeddah Eagles, Miraas and Kings United.
The WFL was announced in February, but faced delays due to the pandemic. A date is yet to be announced.
JEDDAH: Saudi women are breaking new barriers on the Kingdom’s golf greens, becoming acquainted with the sport and the benefits that come with it.
Though golf is a relatively new sport in the country, women have been encouraged to take up the game through new opportunities and support provided to them.
Golf continues to be a male-dominated sport. Despite women showing huge interest in the game, they are poorly represented in its ranks around the world.
A recently launched sporting initiative will allow women in the Kingdom to learn golf for free. The Aramco Saudi Ladies International, presented by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), is a first for the Kingdom. Another project, Golf Saudi’s innovative “Ladies First Club,” will offer complimentary membership, including golf lessons, driving range access and full 18-hole rounds on three different courses.
The offer is open to all Saudi women, with initial membership capped at 1,000. Sarah Al-Arifi, a 26-year-old Saudi entrepreneur, told Arab News that she was excited about the prospect of a Saudi female golf club. Even though the sport is perceived as male dominated globally, sports development is progressing rapidly in the Kingdom and is becoming inclusive, Al-Arifi said. She said the new projects will be “empowering.”
Al-Arifi highlighted the benefits of creating a community for every sport, not only golf, adding that from a consumer’s perspective, it promises to generate creativity.
“Having a community for a specific sport is not only important, it’s necessary because it drives competition and that’s much better for us as consumers. The obvious benefits of a community aside, as a consumer, I want there to be competition because it drives innovation and problem solving,” she said.
Depending on location, players in the scheme will be designated as a Ladies First Member at either Riyadh Golf Club, Dirab Golf Club or King Abdullah Economic City’s Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.
The Ladies First Club will officially launch during a tournament buildup for the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF.
It will take place between Nov. 12 and 15, two days before the Saudi Ladies Team International, which will see teams of four golfers compete for $500,000 in prize money from Nov. 17 to 19.
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.