Asrar Damdam, founder/CEO of UVERA and PhD. student at KAUST studying electrical and computer engineering. (Supplied)
According to a 2020 study published on statista.com about the gender distribution of 2018 STEM graduates in Saudi Arabia, Communications and IT is the most popular major among female graduates
JEDDAH: In the past five years, Saudi women have taken great strides in scientific fields and, with the support of the government, the best seems yet to come.
Saudi women are now serving as leaders in their research fields, and many have gone on to serve as deans, directors of research centers and more.
In an interview with Al-Arabiya, Hind Al-Zahid, undersecretary for women’s empowerment at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, said that “the percentage of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is higher than men” in the Kingdom.
According to a 2020 study published on statista.com about the gender distribution of 2018 STEM graduates in Saudi Arabia, Communications and IT is the most popular major among female graduates.
Asrar Damdam, founder and CEO of UVERA, is one of the many Saudi women who are not only pursuing degrees in STEM but also working for the empowerment of women by providing them with job opportunities.
She told Arab News that she followed her passion and obtained a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering followed by a master’s degree. “Now I am a Ph.D. student at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. It wasn’t an easy start but as soon as I entered the job market five years ago, many companies were not only welcoming to women but many were searching for them to join. Times have changed and you now see more women exploring their options in various fields of science.”
Technology. It wasn’t an easy start but as soon as I entered the job market five years ago, many companies were not only welcoming to women but many were searching for them to join.
Asrar Damdam, Founder and CEO of UVERA
With her company based in Silicon Valley, she opened a syndicate in the Kingdom. Damdam has found that her recent female recruits are passionate about their work and are going through the learning curves required to excel in their respective fields.
“Their work ethics are exceptional and their passion is felt as they continue to provide insight and finding innovative ways to reach the company’s goals,” she said. “It’s because of their passion that they are able to contribute and it wouldn’t have been achievable without the programs that provided me and the many women in the fields of STEM with these opportunities.”
This was reiterated by Al-Zahid, who spoke of Saudi Arabia’s eagerness to pursue empowerment for women and to provide them with adequate positions fit for their fields of expertise.
“The numbers tell the story,” she said, adding that international markers have shown the Kingdom’s pursuit in empowering women in the labor market is exceeding expectations.
Saudi Arabia has placed foreign investment as a main focus in its plans for economic development. (SPA)
Saudis welcome plans for revolutionary zero carbon city
JEDDAH: Saudi officials and citizens have welcomed the Kingdom’s revolutionary zero carbon city, announced on Sunday by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.The city — named “The Line” — will be a car-free city within Saudi Arabia’s futuristic NEOM business hub along the Red Sea coast.
The construction is set to start in the first quarter of this year. It will allow 1 million residents to live in a “zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions” city but around nature.
“It is a new era of civilization, a new model for a city which is clean, proper and with zero carbon,” Saudi economist Mazen Al-Sudairi told Arab News welcoming this major step. “This will improve the efficiency of humankind.”
He added that Saudi Arabia is moving toward a new data-based civilization as compared to the older civilization, which was built on the flow of water and vegetation.
Moreover, Al-Sudairi believes that this model will attract more foreign direct investment and provide a tech-based future.
Saudi Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Abdullah Alswaha, said on Twitter: “Saudi Arabia enters the great book of history as an innovative force for the 21st century.”
He noted that the city is moving to green and renewable energy, stressing that the region can exploit solar energy and winds by more than 70 percent, which makes NEOM one of the top three places around the world for energy efficiency.
In addition, NEOM also has the capability to produce green hydrogen, he told Al-Arabiya on Monday.
• The construction is set to start in the first quarter of this year.
• The city will receive huge cloud computing investments, amounting to more than $1.5 billion.
• It will allow 1 million residents to live in a ‘zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions’ city but around nature.
He added that the futuristic city will receive huge cloud computing investments, amounting to more than $1.5 billion.
The crown prince said the backbone of investment would come from Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund — the Public Investment Fund — and local and international investors for the NEOM project.
Saudi Arabia has placed foreign investment as a main focus in its plans for economic development.
Even in light of the global economic tension resulting from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, foreign investment in the Kingdom jumped by 2 percent in the third quarter of 2020, Al-Eqtisadiah reported.
Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman, said on Twitter: “It is one of the major projects that places people first and employs technology to serve societies.”
The project is a direct response to some of the vital challenges facing humanity, such as infrastructure, pollution, traffic and human congestion, NEOM said.
Education Minister Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh also welcomed the announcement saying: “The crown prince’s global vision for The Line places the humans’ life, health, environment, productivity and entertainment first.
“The project is characterized by the principles of global humanity, economic diversity and artificial intelligence, and the enhancement of research and innovation opportunities for the future industry.”
MAKKAH: The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has appointed around 1,500 females in its different departments to serve female visitors to the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
A total of 600 women have been recruited in the Technical and Service Affairs Agency. The rest of the female staff will be deployed in other departments of the presidency such as electric vehicles, Zamzam watering unit, guidance and intellectual affairs, administrative affairs, public relations, media and communication and the General Department of Internal Auditing.
Dr. Al-Anoud bint Khaled Al-Aboud, deputy president for women’s development affairs, said the step is part of the presidency’s transformational initiatives 2024. It aims to raise the level of services provided in the Two Holy Mosques, she said.
Al-Aboud also said it also part of the Saudi leadership’s plans to empower women and ensure best possible services to female pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque in line with Saudi Vision 2030.
The presidency is continuously taking measures to serve pilgrims and visitors in the best possible manner.
Ancient stone carvings and other discoveries in the peninsula show a land that once flourished with life. Archaeologists have found proof that the historical roots of the people of Arabia go back more than 120,000 years. (AFP)
MAKKAH: Hidden beneath the sands of the Arabian Peninsula lie secrets dating back thousands of years that tell the story of the people of Arabia.
Ancient stone carvings and other discoveries in the peninsula show a land that once flourished with life and ancient civilizations. Like detectives, historians and archaeologists have found proof that the historical roots of the people of Arabia go back more than 120,000 years.
Dr. Salma Hawsawi, professor of ancient history at King Saud University, said in an interview with Arab News that the geographical location of the Arabian Peninsula, at the center of the ancient world — Asia, Africa, and Europe — provided ancient civilizations with an added advantage to connect East and West.
She explained that from the beginning of the first millennium BC, the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula witnessed the rise of several kingdoms and civilizations, such as Ma’in, Hadramout, Awsan, Qataban, Sheba, and Himyar. Due to their strategic locations, as trade flourished, so did the civilizations that controlled the land and sea trading routes.
The kingdoms of the north and northwest of the Arabian Peninsula such as Dadan, Lihyan, Nabatea, the Palmyrene Empire, Tayma, and Qedar flourished around the same period.
In the eastern region of the peninsula, the kingdoms of Dilmun and Magan, Gerrha and Thaj were active, while in the central region there was the Al-Magar civilization and Qaryat Al-Faw.
•The Kingdom, which occupies about a third of the Arabian Peninsula, is full of architectural and written proofs, from buildings to inscriptions and rock drawings.
• AlUla, in the northwest of the Kingdom, contains a large number of Dadanitic, Lihyan, and Thamudic inscriptions. • Scholars have found inscriptions and drawings dating back 10,000 years in AlUla and Hail.
Hawsawi pointed out that the Kingdom, which occupies about a third of the Arabian Peninsula, is full of architectural and written proof, from buildings to inscriptions and rock drawings.
She noted that rock drawings can be found in Hail, the ancient fort in Tabuk dating back to 3500 BC, Fadak’s palaces and Khaybar’s forts, the Marid Castle in Dumat Al-Jandal dating back to the first century AD and ancient cemeteries. She also mentioned statues, some still intact, dolls, bas-relief decorations and pottery. “If the above mentioned items are not enough, we have the Holy Kaaba, which is the oldest place of worship on earth.”
She said: “The Kingdom realized the importance of this cultural heritage, so it established the Ministry of Culture in 2018.”
She went on to say that the Saudi Arabia and international archaeological missions are still excavating and constantly announcing their findings, the latest of which was a joint discovery by the international and Saudi archaeological missions of human, elephant and predatory animal footprints around a dry lake in Tabuk, in the northwest of the Kingdom, dating back more than 120,000 years.
Archaeological studies have also revealed many archaeological areas within the Arabian Peninsula, for example Dumat Al-Jandal, which was mentioned in ancient biblical sources.
Dr. Marwan Shuaib
Dr. Marwan Shuaib, professor of Ancient History at King Abdul Aziz University, said: “The ancient Near East region is considered the home of mankind’s first civilizations. Western scholars have been interested in studying it for more than two centuries, since the arrival of the French under Napoleon in Egypt and the Levant (1798-1801 AD). The need to study and explore this important region increased with the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, which made it easy for scientists to decipher hieroglyphics.”
The prevailing view was that the Nile River region and Mesopotamia were the oldest civilizations known to humanity, alongside the Chinese and Indian civilizations.
“Visits from Western travelers to the Arabian Peninsula increased: Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt who discovered Petra in 1812, the capital of the Nabataeans in southern Jordan, and English traveler Charles Doughty who visited the Arabian Peninsula between 1908 and 1909 and discovered the famous Tayma Stone, which contains important information about the stay of the Babylonian king, Nabonidus, in Tayma for 10 years. These discoveries have drawn the attention of scholars to the ancient history of the Arabian Peninsula.”
He said: “King Abdul Aziz led the way for Western scholars to study the archeology of the Arabian Peninsula. The English traveler John Philby, also known as Abdullah Philby later on, was friends with the founding king and was allowed to tour the lands of the Arabian Peninsula, where he visited the ancient village of Faw in 1949 AD, north of Najran. He mentioned in his writings that it is an archaeological area containing many important historical proofs. The Belgian scholar Ryckmans also visited the Arabian Peninsula in 1951-1952 and copied a large number of its inscriptions. Successive exploration campaigns, drillings and excavations later took place in the archaeological areas of the Arabian Peninsula.”
“Archaeological studies have also revealed many archaeological areas within the Arabian Peninsula, for example Dumat Al-Jandal, which was mentioned in ancient biblical sources as the fortress of Dumat Bin Ismail, meaning that it dates back to the 10th century BC.”
AlUla, in the northwest of the Kingdom, contains a large number of Dadanitic, Lihyan, and Thamudic inscriptions, in addition to a large number of residences with Nabataean features.
Scholars have found inscriptions and drawings dating back 10,000 years in AlUla and Hail, specifically in Jubbah and Al- Shuwaymis, which indicates that the people of the area developed a writing system earlier than archaeologists believed. He concluded by saying that these findings show the historical depth of the region.
Saudi Education Minister Hamad Al-Sheikh. (SPA)
RIYADH: The Kingdom has been ranked in 42nd place out of 138 countries in the Global Knowledge Index. The UN index measures education, research and development and innovation around the world.
Saudi Education Minister Hamad Al-Sheikh said that the ranking represented important progress compared to previous years, where the Kingdom had advanced 10 and 24 places compared to its rankings in 2019 and 2018 respectively.
Al-Sheikh said: “The Kingdom has made a quantum leap in this indicator at the international level in seven areas, namely pre-university education, technical and vocational education and training, higher education, research development and innovation, information and communications technology (ICT), economy and enabling environments.” He added: “The Kingdom’s overall index (50.9) is nearly four points higher than the international average, with an international average of 46.7.”
The minister underlined that the achievement came at a time when education continues to achieve globally advanced positions according to international indicators, thanks to the support that the Saudi leadership accords to the education sector so as to achieve global leadership.
Al-Sheikh said that the Kingdom scored 68.5 in the field of technical and vocational education and training index, while the international average was 50.8.
In the research and innovation index it scored 29.7, while the international index averaged 26. The Kingdom’s index in the higher education surpassed the international index by one point, scoring 41.3 against 40.3.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia continues to make great strides in peace, justice and equality — hallmarks of a sustainable society. As the world celebrates UN Human Rights Day, Arab News looks back at the Kingdom’s achievements in 2020.
In recent years, Saudis have enjoyed significant advances in the area of human rights. The right for women to drive, the abolition of male guardianship over women and women’s ability to travel without male permission show that the Kingdom continues to make significant progress.
But equally important for human rights in the Kingdom was the easing of the sponsorship (kafala) system for migrant workers and contributions to the fight for gender equality.
In a statement marking Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, Saudi Human Rights Commission chief Dr. Awwad Al-Awwad said that the Kingdom under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been working to promote sustainable development, the rule of law, justice and equality.
“To this end, the Saudi leadership has implemented unprecedented human rights reforms, with more than 70 resolutions, and fulfilled all the commitments it made,” he said.
Al-Awwad said that this commitment reflects the support and attention that Saudi Arabia accords to human rights under its Vision 2030 reform program.
As the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise in Saudi Arabia, King Salman ordered free treatment be provided to all coronavirus patients in government and private health facilities, even those in violation of residency laws.
The royal decree, born out of the king’s wish to put the health of citizens and residents first, and to ensure the safety of all, was delivered by the Saudi Health Minister, Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, on March 30 — a move few countries were able to match.
“Saudi Arabia has given great importance and attention to fighting the pandemic both on the internal and external level,” Al-Awwad said.
In November, the Kingdom eased the sponsorship system for foreign expat workers, including contract restrictions that gave employers control over the lives of around 10 million migrant workers.
The new reforms will allow private sector workers to change jobs and leave the country without an employer’s consent.
Salma Al-Rashid, chief advocacy officer of the Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women and Women 20 sherpa who has represented Saudi Arabia at the W20 since 2018, said that the G20 offered Saudi women unprecedented access to conversations that dictated their futures.
“The W20 this year allowed us to create a bridge between global and local conversations on what matters most to women and how we can ensure women’s economic empowerment,” she said.
According to a World Bank report released in January, the Saudi economy has made “the biggest progress globally toward gender equality since 2017.”
The study, which tracks how laws affect women in 190 economies, scored the Kingdom’s economy 70.6 points out of 100, a dramatic increase from its previous score of 31.8 points.
Issam Abu Sulaiman, the bank’s regional director for the GCC, said of the report: “Saudi Arabia, basically, has become one of the leaders in the Arab world in terms of women’s empowerment.”
Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi ambassador to the US, also commented on the past few years’ developments in women’s rights in the country.
“These new regulations are history in the making. They call for the equal engagement of women and men in our society. It is a holistic approach to gender equality that will unquestionably create real change for Saudi women,” she tweeted.
Hanan Al-Hamad, a Saudi human rights activist and opinion writer, told Arab News that the Kingdom was doing a “remarkable job” regarding the strengthening of human rights in the country.
“Congratulations to our civil society in which human rights have become a source of strength and pride,” she said.
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: The King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), in collaboration with the European Council of Religious Leaders, organized a virtual dialogue seminar under the theme “The Contributions of Religious Leaders in Tackling Violent Extremism and Promoting Social Cohesion in Europe: Fight and Response.”
The seminar was part of a series of initiatives by KAICIID to promote social cohesion in Europe following recent terrorist attacks in France and Austria.
KAICIID’s secretary-general, Faisal bin Muaammar, said that terrorists’ behavior stemmed from a false and misleading understanding of their religion. “They chose the language of violence, leaving behind all peaceful alternatives,” he said.
Bin Muaammar highighted the effects social media platforms have in fueling violence and hatred after similar attacks in recent years.
“The responses and counter-responses from followers of religions and cultures in Europe and the world at large fuel controversy, hate speech and crimes according to research and studies adopted in this regard,” he said.
“The abuse of religion on one hand, and the targeting of societal components, religion, race and culture, on the other hand, have become an exciting feature of some societies. Last week, there was an attack on a rabbi on a street in Vienna because of his apparent religious identity only. Behind every story like this, there may be hundreds of similar stories out of the spotlight,” he added.
Participants addressed several themes, including the effectiveness of dialogue, and strengthening partnerships between religious leaders and policymakers to prevent extremism and potential violence.
Bin Muammar said that the virtual seminar reflects the center’s attempt to “provide space for reflection, confidence and participation.”