Social media users praise first-ever female-led Hajj security briefing

13/07/21

Saudi soldier Abeer Al-Rashed conducts the first ever female-led security briefing for Hajj
LONDON: Saudi soldier Abeer Al-Rashed conducted on Tuesday the first ever female-led security briefing for Hajj in which she presented security and traffic plans for the pilgrimage.

The female-led briefing was met with positive reactions on social media in Saudi Arabia and the region.

Twitter user Mohamad Matoua praised the soldier saying “God willing, may God bless you… what a confidence and a wonderful voice that distinguish the daughter of our nation, the soldierAbeer Al-Rashed, may God protect her from all evil” in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Saeed Almordi, said that women constitute half of society, “and we are proud of her and of the women in our nation in all fields.”

Another twitter user, Um Loulou, said: “God praise, may Allah her and give her health and wellness, we are proud of her”

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia revealed on Monday the launch of a smart card for pilgrims this year.

The card will facilitate access to pilgrims’ medical history and will be used to purchase necessities and goods during the Hajj season.

It will be the first time the technology is used to aid the pilgrimage journey.

According to the Hajj security commander, no one will be allowed to enter holy sites without a valid security permit in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus.

This article was first published in Arab News

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OIC chief stresses women’s role in economic, social, cultural fields

Time: 09 July 2021

OIC Secretary-General Yousef Al-Othaimeen. (SPA)

Al-Othaimeen commends the unprecedented attention and time given to women issues in Saudi Arabia
OIC seeks to deliver a message to the world that the moderate Islam religion extremely values women, Al-Othaimeen says
CAIRO: OIC Secretary-General Yousef Al-Othaimeen commended the unprecedented attention and time given to women issues in Saudi Arabia during the eighth session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Ministerial Conference on Women.

Egypt hosted the conference on Thursday under the patronage of President Abdelfattah El-Sisi.

Al-Othaimeen said the conference was held at a time where women’s empowerment to take part in political, economic, social and cultural fields has become a must.

He praised the Kingdom for unlocking the full potential of women as a driving force for development across all areas of Saudi Vision 2030.

Al-Othaimeen thanked Egypt for hosting the session, which reflected the country’s concern to promote the comprehensive objectives of the OIC and strengthen the foundations of the joint Islamic work in women empowerment and other fields.

He added that the OIC seeks to deliver a message to the world that the moderate Islam religion extremely values women and considers them as an effective partner in different fields.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Female workers help Saudi Arabia jobless rate hit five-year low

Time: 03 July 2021

The decline in the unemployment rate was helped by an increase in female participation in the workforce. (Supplied)

Economic and social reforms, pandemic response praised as experts hail rapid jobs growth
RIYADH: A rapid Saudi government response to the coronavirus pandemic, women’s active participation in the workforce and Vision 2030 economic reforms have been cited by experts as major factors in the Kingdom’s unemployment rate falling to its lowest level in almost five years.

The decline in the jobless rate comes as the Saudi economy begins to rebound from the pandemic and women join the workforce in record numbers.

The overall Saudi unemployment rate fell to 11.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared with 12.6 percent in the last quarter of 2020, the General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) said on Wednesday.

According to GASTAT, the joblessness figure is the lowest since an 11.6 percent rate in the second quarter of 2016.

The decline in the unemployment rate was helped by an increase in female participation in the workforce, which rose to 33.6 percent from 32.1 percent in the previous quarter.

The Kingdom is benefiting from a surge in investment as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to diversify the economy under the Vision 2030 reform plan.

Economic reforms since 2016 have created millions of jobs, with plans to reduce unemployment to 7 percent by 2030.

Speaking to Arab News, economist Talat Zaki Hafiz said that unemployment in Saudi Arabia has fallen to its lowest level in almost five years for many reasons, including rigorous efforts by the government to Saudize most of the commercial sectors in private businesses.

HIGHLIGHT
The overall Saudi unemployment rate fell to 11.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared with 12.6 percent in the last quarter of 2020, GASTAT said.

“Empowering women in the labor market and offering them a wider chance to work and participate more actively has reflected positively in unemployment sliding in the Kingdom,” he said.

“Today we have more and better Saudis to work in the private sector from the point of view of qualification or even willingness to accept the kind of jobs that were not appealing to them.”

Hafiz said that he was confident the Kingdom will reach its Saudi Vision 2030 target of 7 percent unemployment.

Dr. Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy, adviser and law professor at the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh, said: “Saudi Vision 2030 highlights the importance of raising the employment levels of Saudis. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Saudi Arabia managed to lower its unemployment rate, while other countries suffered huge job losses.

“Policies implemented by the government were effective in avoiding an increase in unemployment rates,” he said.

Al-Obaidy said that employment programs and initiatives for young Saudis, especially women, and investments by the Saudi Public Investment Fund as well as economic reforms undertaken by the Saudi government have led to a lowering of the unemployment rate.

This is in addition to the support and incentive packages that the government provided to businesses and business owners to help avoid mass job losses, he said.

“The lowering of the unemployment rate in the Kingdom is a testament to the strength and resilience of the Saudi economy and its labor market,” Al-Obaidy added.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Princess Reema tells Saudi women entrepreneurs to dream big

Time: 28 June 2021

https://youtu.be/7CM0Flpp32w

Source by Stefanie H. Ali

On June 23, 2021 the Atlantic Council’s empowerME Initiative held a workshop featuring a keynote fireside chat with Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud, which was moderated by US Embassy Riyadh Chargé D’Affaires Martina Strong, and a panel discussion with Endeavor Saudi Arabia Managing Director Lateefa Alwaalan, 500 Startups MENA Partner Amal Dokhan, S&P Global Chief Public & Government Affairs Officer Courtney Geduldig, and UPS Vice President for Community Relations Esther Ndichu, which was moderated by empowerME Director and Resident Senior Fellow Amjad Ahmad.

This workshop was part of the Igniting Women’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Saudi Arabia program and was led by the Atlantic Council’s empowerME Initiative in partnership with the US Mission to Saudi Arabia, the American Chamber of Commerce Saudi Arabia, and Quantum Leaps. The program is bringing US entrepreneurs, experts, and business leaders together with their Saudi counterparts to build relationships, share knowledge, and develop partnership opportunities via hybrid workshops and networking sessions.

Key takeaways:
Saudi Arabia’s Changing Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Amjad Ahmad discussed the importance of more US-Saudi partnerships and knowledge sharing to bring entrepreneurs, business leaders, and experts from both countries together to promote economic prosperity, and added that “Saudi Arabia has embarked on an essential economic transition with a substantial rise in entrepreneurship and with women playing a greater role in the country’s economy.”

Martina Strong emphasized the United States’ desire to see Saudi women equipped to take full advantage of the rapid pace of change: “In today’s Saudi economy, one can sense the dynamism, the creativity, new sectors and opportunities are being generated and expanded every single day…We want to see many more women take their rightful place of leadership in the economy and across Saudi society.”

Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud emphasized that: “Vision 2030 changed everything…today, when I look at these young female entrepreneurs, the challenge isn’t regulatory anymore. The challenge isn’t really even financial anymore because the opportunities are there for financial development and support and growth. Mentorship is available. The limitation today is your dream.” She added that Vision 2030 has unlocked so many opportunities for women to not just dream but bring their dreams to fruition. “That is the profound difference” from the past, she said, and it is a “fundamental shift.”

Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud also shared an anecdote illustrating the rapid pace of change in the Kingdom and the importance of timing for a business to be successful. In 2005 when she co-founded Yibreen, a women’s gym chain, she struggled to expand it because of the legal, regulatory, and cultural environment at that time. Then, a few years ago in her role working for the Saudi General Sports Authority, she was asked to deregulate that very same sector, which has enabled women’s gyms to flourish.

Lateefa Alwaalan noted that “there is a rise of a subsector of women getting into their own businesses enabled by technology, delivery apps, and e-commerce solutions to put their innovative ideas out there and start sourcing.” She added that internet penetration and digital access is also helping.

Amal Dokhan highlighted the positive funding trajectory in the MENA region and in Saudi Arabia, with the MENA region passing the $1 billion funding mark in 2020 even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. She added that Saudi Arabia had $156 million in startup funding in 2020 and there was a 56 percent increase in startup funding in 2021 year-to-date. These trends are positive and demonstrate investor interest, Dokhan added.
Challenges for Women Entrepreneurs & Strategies to Address Them

Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud discussed an ongoing challenge for women entrepreneurs: access to funding. She noted that this is an issue not just in Saudi Arabia but worldwide, since there have been more men than women entrepreneurs historically, meaning that investors are more accustomed to funding men entrepreneurs. She urged women entrepreneurs to get advice and support on structuring and running their business to ensure their endeavors are competitive and viable.

Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud emphasized the importance of financial literacy and financial security for all women entrepreneurs to ensure that financial insecurity does not become a significant stress factor that derails a business endeavor.

Lateefa Alwaalan noted that, while more and more women are launching businesses, scaling and turning them into a sustainable venture is a challenge. Courtney Geduldig expanded on this point, stating that there has been a 72 percent increase in companies founded by women in the past few years, but scaling is not happening at the same rate in part because more venture capital funding goes to men. According to Geduldig, getting more women into venture capital firms will help address this issue since gender diversity brings diversity of thought no matter the field.
When asked about the percentage of women founders in the region, Amal Dokhan stated that approximately 14 percent of the MENA startups are women-led. She emphasized that there is not a lack of women entrepreneurs and that there are more and more every day, but there is a need for more women-led technology startups. According to a 2019 report, 16 percent of startup founders in Saudi Arabia are women.
Courtney Geduldig shared findings from research for her book: Where the Jobs Are: Entrepreneurship and the Soul of the American Economy. Challenges she discovered for women entrepreneurs in particular include: lack of financial literacy, lack of confidence, difficulties finding access to funding and access to loans, and the heavy burden of caregiving responsibilities. Geduldig emphasized that these challenges are ongoing in the United States and it would be prudent for us all to learn lessons from other countries working to address these issues. She added that there is a need for more access, guidance, and support focused on opening doors and creating a more inclusive network for women business founders.
Programs to Support Women Entrepreneurs

Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud directed women entrepreneurs to visit the Saudi Ministry of Commerce and the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises (Monshaat) websites for further resources on funding opportunities for their businesses.

Esther Ndichu pointed to corporate programs such as UPS’s work with the American Chamber of Commerce in Saudi Arabia, UPS’s recently signed memorandum of understanding with the Saudi General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) (Monshaat) to promote and engage with SMEs in Saudi Arabia, and UPS’s partnership with the International Trade Center’s SheTrades Initiative, to provide channels for women entrepreneurs around the world to access global markets. She discussed UPS’s approach to promoting SME growth around the world through three focal areas: (1) capacity building to close the gap to ensure women entrepreneurs have the skills to access global markets, such as factoring in real costs, (2) market access to bring in private sector partners, and (3) providing logistics perspectives to governments to ensure that the MENA countries’ legal and regulatory frameworks encourage women to become entrepreneurs.
Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud encouraged women entrepreneurs to:
Take public speaking and debate classes and get advice from experts on core business competencies in areas where they are weak. She also challenged would-be entrepreneurs to make the case for why they are the best person to take the idea forward since having a great idea is not enough.
Move forward despite rejections and recognize that rejections and “nos” from funders help hone a business idea.
Get a job in the industry related to their business idea and learn from a person in the field and develop their concept from there.

Amal Dokhan urged women entrepreneurs to look at the gaps and find a team that complements their capabilities and ask themselves if the market for their idea is big enough to scale and has enough customers. “It’s about finding the right formula,” she added.
Amal Dokhan also underscored the importance of having the courage to speak in public and share success (and failure) stories: “I meet female entrepreneurs in different parts of the world, but something repeated in every culture is that we don’t want to be out there until we are absolutely perfect. If you get the chance, allocate maybe four times a year, every quarter, to get out there and share your story, or at least offer mentorship.” She added that storytelling is critical and makes you a role model for other would-be women and men entrepreneurs and mentoring is a great way to give back and help the next generation.

Lateefa Alwaalan emphasized the importance of surrounding yourself with the right networks because those can be enablers that help an entrepreneur find success faster. She added that it is wise to build a team of co-founders and co-investors rather than going it alone, saying: “You will face roadblocks and it is good to find people smarter than you or those who complement you to help you on this journey.”

Courtney Geduldig shared that one learning from her research with women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs in general is that they need to find opportunities for mentorship, relationship building, and insider knowledge in order to obtain not just access to finance and credit, but to leverage that access and build on it successfully.

Esther Ndichu urged women entrepreneurs to check out UPS’s Women Exporter’s Program, which provides information and builds capacity for women-led SMEs. She added that UPS has found that, in the age of tech and ecommerce, businesses can leapfrog the normal process of distribution only in the local community and go straight to global product distribution.
Poll Results

At the workshops, we polled attendees on the following questions related to women’s entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia. As the results below indicate, the environment for women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia is improving, but more access to support and training is still needed.

Stefanie H. Ali is deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s empowerME Initiative. Follow her @StefHausheer.

This article was first published in Atlantic Council

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Reema Juffali set to pay tribute to Saudi heritage on Silverstone debut

26/06/2021

Reema Juffali will be making her first ever start at Silverstone this weekend. (Douglas Motorsport)

  • Driving for Douglas Motorsport team, the 29-year-old will be taking part in the second stage of the 2021 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship

Saudi Arabian driver Reema Juffali will compete on one of motorsport’s most iconic tracks over the coming days, and the 29-year-old will pay tribute to her heritage by wearing a personalized helmet.

As part of the Douglas Motorsport team, Juffali is taking part in the second stage of the 2021 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship, where she will aim to build on her performance in the opening rounds which took place last month.

Juffali is relishing the prospect of competing at Silverstone for the very first time.

“It’s the home of British motorsport and an iconic track, so to be racing here, and hopefully putting on a good show, is very exciting for me,” she said.

“With the way the track is, the grip level gives me confidence in the car. Of all the tracks I’ve visited, this is the one I’m most excited about racing on and I can’t wait to get out there.”


While Silverstone may be a long way from Juffali’s birthplace of Jeddah, the helmet she will wear will ensure she feels that little bit closer to home.

“I’m really excited about it and it’s been a long time coming. I wanted to incorporate a bit of myself, and Saudi, into the helmet. There is some green, and orange to represent the desert. I also have a symbol on the top, called Theeba, which is a she-wolf, and that’s something my friends used to call me when I was a teenager. I added my name in both English and Arabic.

“I came up with the base design and then I sent loads of photos to the designer,” she added. “In the past, I haven’t really liked a lot of the helmets that were designed for me, and they didn’t always go to plan. I had the same design for two years in Formula 4 so now I’m really happy with what we’ve come up with because it’s very representative of me, it feels authentic which is hugely important to me.”

Juffali’s Saudi heritage plays a pivotal role in her life and, as the country’s most high-profile female racing driver, she has a huge opportunity to inspire young women who might wish to follow in her footsteps.

“It’s very important and something extremely close to my heart,” said Juffali. “Growing up in Saudi, I didn’t have many role models in the public sphere who I could look up to, and now there are so many.“People can connect with other people who are like them and from a similar background, whether that’s a racing driver, an artist or something else entirely. I think it’s crucial to have somebody like that and I think I’m in a very fortunate position to be able to inspire youngsters.”Turning her attention back to the upcoming event, Juffali says she has left no stone unturned ahead of her return to action at the British F3 Championship.

For any professional athlete, preparation is key, and she is confident of reaping the rewards out on the track.

“It’s been good,” she says. “We’ve been trying to put in as much time as we can, whether that’s in a simulator or on a track, just so I stay fresh and get as much experience as I can prior to the race weekend,” Juffali said. “I’ve managed to do that and it’s given me that extra bit I need to come here with confidence. And it’s also important because I don’t want to come into the event feeling like I need to brush off the cobwebs. I feel like I’m ready to go, which is great.

“A top 10 finish would be great,” she added. “It depends on the conditions and what’s happening throughout the races, but for me, breaking into the top 10 would be a big win and that’s where I’d like to be. I’m feeling confident so let’s see what happens.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia’s Princess Reema emphasises the importance of slow fashion

21/06/2021

As this year’s Fashion Futures Live theme focused on the ‘Future of fashion directed towards sustainability, diversity and innovation’, HRH Princess Reema Bint Bandar of Saudi Arabia spoke on Thursday evening to a virtual audience about the importance of slow fashion.

As a large environmental footprint seems to be growing by the year, Princess Reema, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States of America,  highlighted a slew of aspects that needed to be targeted n the fashion industry in the region, especially reducing consumption for a cleaner, more comfortable work system in order to benefit society including the creatives at large.

During the virtual Discussion Princess Reema said, “One of the things that really breaks my heart is when I see people operate in isolation. When we collaborate we have a collective good and we can pay it forward and we can learn from each other.”


Being the Kingdom’s first-ever flagship fashion event dedicated to the creation of a fashion ecosystem in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the virtual platform offers an engaging conference broadcasted live from Riyadh.

Susan Rockefeller, Artist, Activist & Founder of Musings Magazine, highlighted how only nine per cent of the plastic production is recycled globally, even though it continues to be manufactured around the world. She noted there must be a greater need for companies to provide environmentally friendly options in the near future to reduce the unnecessary production strain in the fashion industry.

The other prestigious names of experts that provided practical solutions during the event included Rebecca Minkoff, President and Trustee of Oceana, a non-profit organization for the protection of marine life and Her Highness Princess Noura bint Faisal Al Saud.

In case you missed the event, you can watch the below:

This article was first published in Emirates Woman

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Fashion Futures Live: Saudi Arabia’s Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud Stresses The Importance of Slow Fashion In The Industry

Time: 18 June 2021

BY Khulood Ahmed

“One of the things that really breaks my heart is when I see people operate in isolation. When we collaborate we have collective good, and we can pay it forward and we can learn from each other…”

HRH Princess Reema Bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in the United States, spoke on Thursday evening to an audience of virtual guests at Fashion Futures Live, touching on important topics surrounding this year’s theme: Future of Fashion Directed Towards Sustainability, Diversity and Innovation.

The virtual forum hosted some of the most inspiring experts from all over the world, along with a number of influential leaders, who spoke about the topic of sustainability, presenting their experiences and practical solutions to reduce pollution within the industry – including the likes of designer Rebecca Minkoff and Susan Rockefeller, President and Trustee of Oceana, a non-profit organization for the protection of marine life.

Princess Reema noted that it is indeed the time for creativity in Saudi Arabia. She stressed the need for slow fashion and the importance of reducing consumption for a cleaner, more comfortable work system – which would benefit creatives, workers and the environment in the long run.

“One of the things that really breaks my heart is when I see people operate in isolation. When we collaborate we have collective good, and we can pay it forward and we can learn from each other…” she said.

Susan Rockefeller stressed that the plastic recycled is only 9% of plastic production globally, yet plastic continues to be manufactured around the world. She called on the major companies to start providing environmentally friendly options and packaging and manufacturing their products in an ecofriendly manner.

Watch Fashion Futures Live here.

This article was first published in Harpers Bazaar Arabia

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20,000 women benefit from Saudi Arabia’s Wusool program

11/06/2021

RIYADH: The number of Saudi female employees to benefit from the Human Resources Development Fund’s (Hadaf) transportation program has topped 20,000.

Under the Wusool program women can receive an 80 percent discount on the cost of each trip to work. The ceiling of support was increased to SR1,100 ($293) a month for those with a monthly wage not exceeding SR6,000, and SR800 for workers earning between SR6,001 and SR8,000.

The initiative aims to reduce transport costs for Saudi female workers in the private sector by providing them with subsidized high-quality, safe, and secure travel-to-work services, in partnership with taxi companies, through licensed smart apps.

The scheme, designed to increase the participation of women in the labor market and provide job stability, covers 13 regions of the Kingdom and women working in the private sector can visit http://wusool.sa to register.

This article was first published in Arab News

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KSA Fashion Commission backs luxury designs with 100 Saudi Brands program

04/06/2021

The program will help build 100 Saudi brands that are able to compete regionally and internationally. (Screenshot)

The authority invited those wishing to take part in the program to register before June 20
The program offers a one-year package of training and guidance programs

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Fashion Commission has launched the “100 Saudi Brands” program, which aims to support the business development of 100 Saudi designers and luxury brands, providing Saudi fashion products with international competitive standards.
The authority invited those wishing to take part in the program to register via the website https://saudi100brands.com before June 20.
The program offers a one-year package of training and guidance programs, and includes sessions for groups and individuals, along with virtual and physical training workshops to develop competitive business advantages in the Saudi fashion industry.
Course topics will include brand review and mentoring, training in defining brand concepts, sales performance strategies, public relations and marketing strategies, methods for finding and identifying particular clients, innovations, technology and leadership skills.
The program’s stages include activities presented to the consumer to encourage sales in the local market, the first of which will be held in Riyadh in December, the activation of electronic sales outlets in January, and a campaign targeting wholesales in order to activate international sales in February.
The program will help build 100 Saudi brands that are able to compete regionally and internationally, within the framework of the Fashion Commission to develop the fashion sector in the Kingdom in all its legislative and regulatory aspects, and to support and empower its workers, including creators and investors.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Princess Reema highlights strong Saudi-US ties during key webinar

Time: 01 June 2021

Saudi Gazette report

JEDDAH — Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States Princess Reema Bint Bandar said that her goal is to unlock the Kingdom’s untapped potential, uplifting citizens and opening the country to the world socially and economically, as well as culturally.

She made these remarks carried by The Washington Diplomat, a US-based premier source of news and information for the global diplomatic community, recently during an online event, a part of the “Women in Global Leadership” webinar series.

The event, which was moderated by Susan Sloan, author of “A Seat at the Table: Women, Diplomacy and Lessons for the World,” offered a rare peek into the life and worldview of Princess Reema, who is considered to be one of the most powerful women in the Middle East.

Princess Reema, who made history by becoming Saudi Arabia’s first female ambassador, is the daughter of Prince Bandar bin Sultan. She grew up in Fairfax County, Virginia, while her father served as the Kingdom’s ambassador from 1983 to 2005.

Sharing her thoughts about her role model and the experience of her early life in the US, Princess Reema said: “My father remains, I think, the model of a Saudi diplomat. During his 23-year tenure I grew up in the United States. I was immersed in the culture of the US,” she said.

She added: “I’m lucky to have experienced life in both countries because it prepared me not only to work in the kingdom and bring dreams and aspirations of things I saw here but also allowed me to represent my nation.”

Princess Reema as an experienced diplomat emphasized her bipartisan approach with regard to American politics said: “The people I went to school with are now senators and congressman, CEOs, leaders of their countries. But the America I grew up in was not a diplomatic world, because my father did not include us in that.

“We didn’t know who was a Republican and who was a Democrat. We knew them as family,” Bandar said, admitting a shocking revelation: her family was fans of the Dallas Cowboys, not the Redskins, she added.

The Saudi ambassador to the US also talked about how unmindful she was about her Arab background while growing in the US, pointing out she still relishes memories of those times.

“I remember the onslaught of the cicadas. I remember ‘Hands Across America’ and the best of the music and the culture of the 1980s,” Princess Reema said Bandar, adding that she didn’t even know there was an Arab community in the Washington metro area until the age of 15. “My memories of America are memories of joy.”

She said things changed dramatically in the US after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which caused some misgivings but our bilateral relations were too strong to be affected.

“Our partnership has been tested at times,” said Princess Reema, adding: “When I took up my diplomatic post, my father took me aside, and he told me that today’s times are different. He advised me to keep in mind every day what’s at stake, and the responsibility I had to oversee, preserve and strengthen a relationship not bound by any single administration, or defined by any single issue.”

Vowing to further strengthen Saudi Arabia’s relations with the US, Princess Reema said: “It is my goal to explain to the American people why this alliance between our two nations is even more important now than ever before.”

Unfortunately, she said, American views of Saudi culture are often misunderstood, leading to stereotypes and negative publicity — especially when it comes to the country’s abysmal human rights record, its treatment of women, and its strict interpretation of Islam.

“We can’t wait for change to happen. We have to make it happen,” Princess Reema said. “In Saudi Arabia, we’re transforming faster than anyone had ever imagined, and that reform process is real, and it’s here to stay.”

Dismissing concerns over Saudi Arabia’s relations with the current US administration led by President Joe Bide, the Saudi ambassador said: “I very much look forward to working with the Biden administration.”

Princes Reema during the webinar also highlighted the Kingdom Vision 2030, a strategic framework to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy and improve health, education, infrastructure and tourism.

“If we’ve done our job right, after 2030 you’re going to see a country that has a diversified economy, having stepped away from fossil fuels,” she said.

She also referred to Neom, a $500 billion futuristic urban project to house more than a million people on a 10,200-square-mile piece of desert in northwestern Saudi Arabia.

“Neom is the city of the future. That doesn’t mean we’ll have robots walking around, but a clean lifestyle,” Princess Reema said.

“Our future doesn’t have to be bleak. As we’ve seen with COVID-19, all this digital revolution has done is isolate us from each other. Coexistence with people and nature is really what we need.”

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette

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