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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Saudi fashions ‘tell the world a story’

28/02/21

Those who watched the Saudi Cup horse race coverage would have noticed that many racegoers, including foreigners living in the Kingdom, donned eye-catching pieces from the Kingdom’s regions. (Supplied)

Eye-catching traditional pieces that women wear on key occasions highlight the Kingdom’s diverse heritage
MAKKAH: With Saudi Arabia’s diverse and colorful cultural traditions, fashion serves as a medium where foreigners and citizens can meet.
Fashion has always been an important part of how people define themselves and others, and Saudi Arabia’s traditional clothing is no different.
Those who watched the Saudi Cup horse race coverage would have noticed that many racegoers, including foreigners living in the Kingdom, donned eye-catching pieces from the Kingdom’s regions, while others made sure they showed off traditional fashion items.

For almost 12 years, Brandi Janow has made Saudi Arabia her home. Janow, who calls herself an “American Saudi,” caught the eye of photographers at the Saudi Cup with her striking red hair and gold coin headpiece while wearing a farwa (heavy overcoat) featuring a Sadu piece, or traditional embroidery of the region, on her coat lapels.
Janow told Arab News that she felt welcome and comfortable since moving to the Kingdom, and dressed according to the traditions of the land.
“The fashion scene was remarkable at the Saudi Cup. I am going to dub it the ‘Met Gala’ of Saudi Arabia in future. Saudi Arabia has such an old fashion heritage, so it was wonderful to be able to take a trip through history and to tell the world a story,” she said.

Saudi Arabia has changed immensely since 2009, and that is something I have appreciated witnessing.

Brandi Janow

“As a history lover, this is probably one of the best places that I can be to see so many remarkable sights with my own eyes,” she added.
Celebrating Saudi Arabia’s heritage, fashionable guests appeared in pieces that highlighted the Kingdom’s diverse heritage, including intricately embroidered daglahs for men and the heavily embellished zaboon worn by the women of Hijaz.
Janow calls Saudi Arabia her home and is “happy my journey brought me here.”

HIGHLIGHTS
• For almost 12 years, Brandi Janow has made Saudi Arabia her home. Janow, who calls herself an ‘American Saudi,’ caught the eye of photographers at the Saudi Cup with her striking red hair and gold coin headpiece while wearing a farwa (heavy overcoat) featuring a Sadu piece, or traditional embroidery of the region, on her coat lapels.

• Janow told Arab News that she felt welcome and comfortable since moving to the Kingdom, and dressed according to the traditions of the land. She calls Saudi Arabia her home and is ‘happy my journey brought me here.’

The private sector worker is also the program director for art, culture, media and entertainment at the American Chamber of Commerce in the Kingdom and also manages Smuug, a small business where she designs and sells products based on her illustrations.

“Before I came to Saudi Arabia I had never traveled outside North America, so I was quite excited to see a new place. I cannot say that I ever experienced culture shock, but I was in awe of how different the country was from my own. It is really beautiful how big the world is, and how different (and the same) we all are,” she said.
“Saudi Arabia has changed immensely since 2009, and that is something I have appreciated witnessing. I really think that humanity cannot prosper without change, growth and evolution.
“This is the natural way of life. As someone who works in the creative industry, it has been such a pleasure to watch the blossoming of talent,” said Janow.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Attempt in Saudi Arabia to restore and reform Islamic law is welcome

17/02/21

There can be no doubt that these reforms signal a major theological shift, and if implemented successfully, will prove to be a watershed moment in the history of Sunni Islam.

The crown prince’s announcement is also a courageous attempt to break the state-ulema nexus that has been the cause of Muslim intellectual and economic backwardness for centuries.

It would appear from recent reports that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is making good on his 2017 promise that he would return the country to a moderate Islam and “eradicate promoters of extremist thoughts.” Last month, The Washington Post disclosed that the kingdom had started purging its textbooks of anti-Semitic and misogynistic content, and this month Reuters revealed that four new laws — the personal status law, the civil transactions law, the penal code of discretionary sanctions and the law of evidence — are being finalised with the ultimate aim of codifying the entire Muslim law in consonance with the principles of shariah and best international practices. Saudi women have welcomed the move, with lawyer Dimah Al-Sharif expressing the hope that it will empower both women and society in general.

There can be no doubt that these reforms signal a major theological shift, and if implemented successfully, will prove to be a watershed moment in the history of Sunni Islam. The crown prince’s announcement is also a courageous attempt to break the state-ulema nexus that has been the cause of Muslim intellectual and economic backwardness for centuries — a fact convincingly exposed by scholar Ahmet T Kuru in his new book Islam, Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment. It was this nexus that buttressed the post-Prophetic Muslim expansionism started by Muawiya in 661 CE with the launch of the Umayyad Caliphate. Questionable traditions (hadiths) were fabricated in the name of the Prophet to scripturally entrench the dynastic ambitions of the ruling family. These hadiths otherised rival tribes and communities, and marginalised women.

Quran’s original Arabic text is free of misogyny and does not encourage any kind of ethnically directed hostility. In fact, it speaks of salvific inclusivity and shows respect for non-Muslim places of worship (2:62, 5:69, 22:40), besides inviting “people of the book” (an inclusive term for followers of all religions) to coexist peacefully on the basis of commonalities in their value systems (3:64).

If Muslims find themselves estranged from this equalitarian message, it is thanks to the havoc wrought over the centuries by exegetical interpolations which relied on dubious hadiths to introduce sectarian ideas into Quranic translations. For instance, an eschatological hadith in the collection Sahih Muslim attributes an anti-Jewish comment to the Prophet. Yet another hadith in Sahih Bukhari states that the Prophet considered women to be intellectually deficient because “the evidence of two women is equal to the witness of one man.”

The anti-Jewish statements attributed to the Prophet go against the verses mentioned above, and the misogynist hadith is based on a complete misunderstanding of the verse 2:282 which instructed Muslims of that period to have their legal agreements witnessed by two men, and “if two men are not available, then a man and two women witnesses of your choice so that if one of them errs (an tazilla), the other can remind her (fatu zakkira).”

A careful reading of this verse would show that there is nothing in it that alludes to the inferiority or the intellectual inadequacy of women. Thanks to centuries of suppression, women of that period were not conversant with the intricacies of business transactions. Islam sought to change this. Men were asked to accord legal status to women by recognising their right to give evidence which was so far denied to them.

The prescription that there may be two female witnesses in case a male witness is not available, was, therefore, a convenience given to women. The verse makes it clear that the second woman will come into play only if the first one “errs” and if she does not, then the transaction will be concluded with a male and a female witness.

This is proved by the fact that in three other contexts (4:15, 24:4, & 65:2), the Quran speaks of witnesses in gender-neutral terms. Put differently, the evidentiary stipulation mentioned in 2:282 was specific to those times, and only for legal or financial transactions. It cannot be generalised and made applicable in perpetuity to lower the intellectual or legal status of women.

One hopes that the historic attempt by Saudi Arabia to theologically defenestrate anti-Semitic and misogynist content, and codify the Muslim law in line with the egalitarian principles of the Quran will go a long way in restoring the Prophetic originality of Islam and influence Muslim societies across the world to do the same.

This article first appeared in the print edition on February 17, 2021 under the title ‘A more equal faith’. The writer is an independent researcher and the secretary-general of the Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought

This article was first published in Indian Express

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Saudi fund helps more than 73,000 women to own homes

07/12/20

Real Estate Development Fund helps women to own homes. (Supplied)
  • 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

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.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Empowerment of women top priority of Vision 2030, says Council of Saudi Chambers head

Time: 20 November 2020

Khaled Al-Yahya

RIYADH: Khaled Al-Yahya, secretary-general of the Council of Saudi Chambers, stressed that the economic empowerment of Saudi women is among the priorities of Vision 2030 reform plan.
In his opening speech at the first meeting of the Coordination Council for Women Affairs at the Council of Saudi Chambers for the current session, Al-Yahya said: “The Council of Saudi Chambers seeks to promote women’s empowerment in all economic activities and fields, whether at level of the council or of the authorities that seek to support women’s economic empowerment.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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‘Scales’ is set to make its theatrical release in cinemas across Saudi Arabia

Time: 11 November 2020

‘Scales’ was picked up by Saudi distributor Cinewaves Films. Supplied

DUBAI: Cinemas are slowly starting to reopen across the Middle East and there are a slew of new releases to look forward to. In particular, “Sayidat Al-Bahr,” or “Scales” in English, Saudi filmmaker Shahad Ameen’s black-and-white dystopian fantasy.

The film, which was created by Image Nation Abu Dhabi, was recently picked up by Saudi distributor Cinewaves Films, and is set to make its debut theatrical release in cinemas across Riyadh, Jeddah, Tabuk, Jizan and the Eastern Province on Nov. 12.

The fantasy film, made in the UAE, tells the story of Hayat, a young girl living in a village with a tradition of sacrificing female children to mysterious sea-dwelling creatures in the. When her time comes, she decides to break with tradition and forge her own path.

It premiered in 2019 at the Venice International Film Festival Critics’ Week, where it won the prestigious Verona Film Club award and has been shown at a number of international film festivals including in London, Los Angeles, Carthage, Cairo and Singapore where it was awarded Best Picture.

Ameen — known for her short film “Eye & Mermaid,” which premiered at the Dubai Film Festival in 2013 — said that the film is an artistic comment on patriarchal societies.

“‘Scales’ tells a visceral story about growing up as a woman in a patriarchal society, offering an allegorical take on a universal theme that will resonate with audiences around the world, Ameen said in a released statement at the time the film debuted.

Ameen attended the film’s socially-distanced premiere this week at AMC cinema in Riyadh, alongside the film’s stars Yagoub Al-Farhan and Basima Hajjar.

The private screening was followed by a live Q&A session between the cast of the film and a variety of well-established filmmakers, critics, media and cinema enthusiasts.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Dr. Kholood Mohamed, head of Tabuk’s regional council

Time: 12 August, 2020

 

Dr. Kholood Mohamed

Dr. Kholood Mohamed has become the first woman in the Kingdom to head Tabuk’s regional council, with the Saudi interior minister approving her appointment as the body’s secretary-general.
Al-Khamis called on Tabuk Gov. Prince Fahd bin Sultan on Monday and the prince congratulated her on her new position, emphasizing the role of Saudi women in government agencies.
She is an assistant professor of inorganic chemistry and supervisor of the chemistry department at the University of Tabuk.
She joined the university in 2010 as a teaching assistant in the science faculty, later becoming a lecturer and then being promoted to associate professor.
She did her doctorate in inorganic chemistry from Howard University in the US in 2018. She obtained her master’s degree from King Saud University in Riyadh and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tabuk.
Al-Khamis is a member of several scientific bodies such as the Supreme Committee of Prince Fahd bin Sultan Award for Scientific Excellence, American Chemical Society, and the Committee for the National Olympiad for Scientific Creativity.
She has presented many research studies during her career, and participated locally and abroad in specialist activities in the science field.

This article was first published in Arab News

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