Saudi Arabia celebrates major leap in social equality

Time: 10 December 2020

In recent years, Saudis have enjoyed significant advances in the area of human rights. (AN photo)
  • Saudi Arabia has been working to promote sustainable development, the rule of law, justice and equality: rights chief

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.

HIGHLIGHTS

• King Salman ordered free treatment be provided to all coronavirus patients in government and private health facilities, even those in violation of residency laws.

• Saudi Arabia eased the sponsorship system for migrant workers.

• The Kingdom allowed women to drive, abolished male guardianship over women.

“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.

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120% rise in female employees in Saudi industries

Time: 08 December 2020

This picture taken on December 18, 2018 shows a view of sky-scrapers along the King Fahd Road in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (AFP)
  • MODON reveals successful female empowerment strategy

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.

FASTFACTS

• 12 industrial cities located in the Riyadh region have 11,750 female employees.

• 13 industrial cities located in the Western region have 3,500 women.

• 10 industrial cities located in the Eastern region have 1,750 female workers.

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.

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Religious leaders denounce extremism in Europe

Time: 03 December 2020

A woman sings the “Marseillaise”, the French national anthem, outside Notre-Dame de l’Assomption Basilica in Nice on October 31, 2020, to pay tribute to the victims two days after a knife attacker killed three people, cutting the throat of two, inside the church of the French Riviera city. (AFP)

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.

HIGHLIGHT

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.

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.”

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Raising environmental awareness in Saudi children

30/11/20

Saudi Arabia has made a number of efforts to protect its environment and resources. (Shutterstock)
Raising awareness starts from a young age, however, as children are inheriting a planet that is not fighting fit
JEDDAH: Foundations are being laid to increase levels of awareness and responsibility among Saudi children about caring for the planet and nurturing the environment.
Achieving environmental sustainability is one of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan’s key goals.
Many environmental awareness groups are emerging in the Kingdom, and there are also books that teach the younger generation how to use resources wisely in the future.
Raising awareness starts from a young age, however, as children are inheriting a planet that is not fighting fit.
Former early childhood educator Nourah Feteih wrote a children’s book called “Adam and The Giant.”
She spoke about her story, why she chose the topics of pollution and global warming, and presenting these issues for Saudi children.
The book, which was inspired by her son Abduljalil, was published five years ago and aims to teach children from a very young age how they can be productive members of society by caring about Earth and how to keep it clean and safe.
“He always liked to help from an early age,” she told Arab News. “He was interested in everything with regards to the environment. Whenever he saw smoke rising from car exhausts or litter anywhere in the streets, he used to make it a point that he does not like pollution and wants it to stop.”
Feteih started educating her son from home and helped instill in him the importance of preserving the environment.
“I thought what if other kids at a young age would learn about this and become productive members of society and grow with this wonderful value, to actually make a great difference for your environment and your planet.”
Philanthropy is a cause very close to Feteih’s heart, and publishing “Adam and The Giant” was a way to give back to her community. She stressed that it was important to teach children about the environment at a young age, and highlighted how they loved to help out and feel included.
“I strongly believe that it’s in children’s nature to help in any way they can, and (they) have the drive of curiosity and learning innately. So, teaching them the value of caring about their environment and teaching them how it affects the planet they live on is a significant added value that they will grow up learning and will carry with them as adults.”
Saudi Arabia has made a number of efforts to protect its environment and resources, while also promoting environmental awareness through various initiatives.
Community groups have been actively engaging with the public and focusing their activities to include families and children.
Environmental awareness groups such as Hejaz Ploggers — jogging while picking up litter — have caught the attention of Saudi youth for their combination of sports and an environmental cause.
There is also a rising number of sustainability solution providers in Saudi Arabia such as Naqaa Sustainability Solutions, which is one of the Kingdom’s first social enterprises.
It was established in 2011 and has been providing waste management programs and community engagement initiatives as well as other services. Some of the activities include collecting waste, talking about environmental problems, separating waste in malls and children’s play areas, and also visiting farms and garden centers.
These two groups are among those that have taken the initiative to play a helping hand in advising children and families alike about the importance of keeping the environment clean, preserving it and ensuring that solutions can one day replace problems.

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Golf and Aramco show young women the future

29/11/20

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.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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Adwa Al-Arifi, undersecretary of planning and development at the Ministry of Sports

21/11/20

Adwa Al-Arifi

Adwa Al-Arifi has recently been  appointed as undersecretary of planning and development at the Ministry of Sports.
She attended Al-Yamamah University in Riyadh, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2011. As an undergraduate student, Al-Arifi founded the Al-Yamamah Female Football Club in 2007 and acted as president of the university’s student council.
In 2008, she founded the Riyadh Female Football Committee, with the aim of developing regulations and rules for football leagues, management and planning, as well as training and referee workshops.
Al-Arifi started her journey with Saudi Fransi Capital in 2012 as part of an asset management rotation program for fresh graduates and was recruited a year later as a portfolio officer in that department. Between 2014 and 2016, she served as a fund manager, building up her expertise in the stock exchange and in asset relativity across different markets.
Halfway through 2016, she consulted for Portas Consulting, where she focused on project analysis and strategy implementation in Saudi Arabia’s sports scene. In 2019, Al-Arifi joined the Ministry of Sports as an investment director.
Having accumulated 10 years of experience in the Saudi football scene, she is making history with her accomplishments in the Kingdom’s sports sector.
Al-Arifi was nominated to become a member of the Saudi Olympics Council by the Saudi Olympic Committee. In December 2019, she became a board member.
Earlier that same year, she was the first Saudi woman appointed to the Saudi Football Federation, joining a seven-member committee.

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Saudi G20 presidency empowered civil societies, Secretariat member says

21/11/20

G20 Saudi Secretariat member Reem Al-Faryan speaks at a media briefing on November 20,2020. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)

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Bangladeshis welcome Saudi labor reforms for foreign workers

Time: 17 November 2020

Foreign workers at a construction site in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
  • Bangladeshi workers praised the new system which will base the relationship between employers and workers on a standard contract certified by the government
  • Remittances from Bangladeshis in Saudi Arabia reached $4 billion in the last fiscal year, according to data from the Bangladeshi Bureau of Manpower, Employment, and Training (BMET)

DHAKA: Bangladeshi migrant workers in Saudi Arabia have lauded new labor reforms in the Kingdom easing contractual restrictions on foreign employees.

Saudi authorities recently announced that a seven-decade-old sponsorship system, known as kafala, was to be abolished.

The reforms, due to come into effect in March, are aimed at making the Saudi labor market more attractive by granting more than 10 million foreign workers the right to change jobs and leave the country without employers’ permission.

Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, secretary-general of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA), told Arab News: “We welcome the decision of the Saudi government. It’s a very positive move. Now the workers can easily change their jobs which will definitely help them explore better opportunities in the job market of the Kingdom.”

He said that his organization was eagerly waiting to learn more about the new system and was looking forward to its implementation.

Saudi Arabia is the single largest destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers and more than 2 million of them are living in the Kingdom.

Every year, they send billions of dollars back to their home country. Remittances from Bangladeshis in Saudi Arabia reached $4 billion in the last fiscal year, according to data from the Bangladeshi Bureau of Manpower, Employment, and Training (BMET).

Shariful Hasan, migration head at Bangladesh-based international development agency BRAC, told Arab News that the new system would make life easier for migrant workers.

“It’s obvious that migrant workers will be benefitted through the reformation of the kafala system,” he said.

Under the current kafala system, migrant workers are generally bound to one employer.

Bangladeshi workers praised the new system which will base the relationship between employers and workers on a standard contract certified by the government, and will allow workers to apply directly for services via an e-government portal, instead of a mandatory employers’ approval.

“My shop is not doing good business since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and I was planning to switch over the job. Now, I can take the decision on my own,” migrant worker Mohammed Hossain told Arab News.

Shams Joarder, who plans to work in Saudi Arabia, said the reform was a great relief as it would allow workers to search for new jobs on the expiry of their contracts while still residing in the Kingdom. “Now we can all change employer without any hassle,” he added.

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Crown prince salutes ‘unprecedented’ Saudi achievements

Time: 13 November 2020

  • The prince said the government has undertaken extensive restructuring to boost non-oil revenues and is working hard to diversify the economy
  • Prince Mohammed: The Kingdom is one of the best 10 countries globally in terms of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has been able to achieve unprecedented economic and social advances in a short period of time, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Thursday.

Commenting on King Salman’s address to the Shoura Council, the crown prince said that the Kingdom has experienced exponential economic growth in the past three years and he is optimistic that this will accelerate after the coronavirus pandemic ends.

Non-oil revenues contributed an estimated SR 1.8 billion ($480 million) to the economy in 2016, he said. Plans were made to increase this contribution, resulting in rapid growth over the past three years, he added.

The crown prince said that authorities in the Kingdom are also working to reduce the unemployment rate as a matter of priority. He said that women account for 64 percent of the total unemployment rate, but a number of reforms have created opportunities that led to an increase in the participation of women in the workforce, from 17 percent to 31 percent in the past year alone.

Prince Mohammed said that although corruption was once rife in the country and had spread like “cancer,” a campaign to tackle this has been very successful, resulting in settlements amounting to SR 247 billion riyals in three years.

After investing more than SR 55 million in digital infrastructure in the past three years, the nation now ranks first among G20 member states in terms of digital competitiveness, and has climbed 40 places on the Digital Infrastructure Index.

During his speech, the prince praised the Public Investment Fund (PIF) for becoming one of the main engines of growth for the Saudi economy.

“We managed to double the size of the PIF from SR 560 billion to more than SR 1.3 trillion,” he said. “We have investments with returns that exceeded 70 percent, and others that exceeded 140 percent.”

He added that the PIF has created more than 190,000 jobs over the past four years.

Turning to the issues of terrorism and extremism, the crown prince said that Saudi Arabia rejects any attempt to associate Islam with terrorism and asserted that intellectual freedom is a means of respect and tolerance.

Speaking a day after a cemetery was attacked in Jeddah, and hours after a shooting at the Saudi embassy in the Netherlands, he vowed that the Kingdom will continue to strike back with an “iron fist” against those who threaten its security and stability. He also reiterated his promise to eradicate any and all forms of extremism in Saudi Arabia.

“In 2017, I pledged to eradicate extremism immediately, and we have actually launched a serious campaign to address its causes and deal with the phenomena,” he said. “Within a year, we eliminated an ideology that took 40 years to create.

“Islam criminalizes these terrorist operations, prohibits bloodshed, and forbids the deception and killing of peaceful people. We promise a deterrent, painful and very severe punishment for anyone who might wish to carry out a terrorist act and employ hate speech.

“We hope that the world will rid itself of contempt for religions and stop attacking religious and national symbols under the pretext of freedom of expression, as this will create fertile grounds for extremism and terrorism.”

Regarding the environment, he said, the amount of conservation land in the Kingdom has been increased from 4 percent to more than 14 percent, the crown prince said, and the Special Forces for Environmental Security was established.

The Ministry of Culture has established 11 organizations to develop the country’s cultural sectors, he said, which has created jobs, contributed to an increasingly thriving economy and improved the overall quality of life.

The Saudi economy is one of the largest and most important in the world, the prince said, and the government has implemented a number of reforms to improve the quality of the labor market for citizens and residents.

“With regard to the rights of expatriates, we have taken numerous measures to restructure the contractual relationship so as to preserve their rights and contribute to increasing maturity in the labor market,” he added.

“Work is underway, in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, to reform the labor market and provide more jobs for citizens. One of the Vision’s goals is to reach an unemployment rate of 7 percent by the year 2030.

“The unemployment rate nearly reached 13 percent in 2018. We were able to witness a continuous decrease to 11.8 percent at the beginning of 2020, by increasing the efficiency of government agencies, the investments of the PIF and other government programs and initiatives.”

He added: “Our next goal will be improving citizens’ income.”

The government has also carried out wide-ranging restructuring processes in a number of sectors, in accordance with the goals of Vision 2030, designed to further enhance non-oil revenues.

“If we had not raised non-oil revenues to nearly SR 360 billion this year, but had maintained the same revenue as was earned in 2015 which was estimated at nearly SR100 billion, we would have been forced to reduce the salaries of public-sector employees by more than 30 percent,” the crown prince said.

“Despite cutting the cost-of-living allowance, we have succeeded in preserving citizens’ salaries, as well as most of their allowances and bonuses, maintaining a capital expenditure of SR 137 billion, increasing spending on operations and maintenance, and bearing the high costs of health care due to the pandemic, which have amounted to SR 188 billion.

“Revenue diversification is important and vital for the Kingdom’s sustainability. We are seriously working on this issue through the investments of the PIF, and by supporting new sectors such as tourism, sports, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, space, mining and much more, in addition to working with the private sector.”

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How Saudi women are becoming equal partners in progress

01/11/20

Saudi Rodina Maamoun, who employed 19 young women almost entirely replacing the men, sells jewellery at a retail store in Riyadh’s Hayat mall on February 19, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF) has put gender-inclusive practices at the heart of Kingdom’s industrial development
Noor Shabib, SIDF vice president, says achieving gender parity and promoting women to senior posts are two major priorities
RIYADH: Women’s participation in the workforce and the wider Saudi economy and having more women in leadership positions is one of the key goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform strategy. That is why the Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF) has made achieving gender parity and the promotion of women to senior positions a top priority, according to its vice president of strategic planning and business development, Noor Shabib.

SIDF has already reached some important milestones, boosting the proportion of women on its staff from zero to 17 percent in less than three years, making it one of the most successful in this regard among Saudi government entities.

“Not only that — we have women employed in every single department, distributing women leaders and young talent to all departments and in various ranks and positions, ranging from vice president for strategic planning and business development, director of enterprise risk management and a director of the SIDF academy,” Shabib told Arab News. “So, we have women at the highest levels, which is something we’re very proud of.”

Shabib hopes the SIDF’s partnership with the Alnahda Philanthropic Society for Women at this year’s edition of the Women 20 (W20), virtually hosted by Riyadh, has encouraged more Saudi institutions to follow suit.

“The SIDF is an advocate sponsor of W20 and the Alnahda society, joining forces to support the advocacy of women’s issues in Saudi Arabia to empower women, diversity and inclusion in the workplace,” said Shabib.

Established in 1974, the SIDF was created to provide mid- and long-term loans to the private industrial sector. Today it commands capital worth SR105 billion ($28 billion). It is therefore in a strong position to promote change across a whole swathe of the economy.

One of the SIDF’s flagship programs is its Nokhab training scheme, which has been running for over 40 years, providing entry-level employees with advanced qualifications in business, human resources and engineering.

“Two years ago, the SIDF set a 50:50 gender target on the program,” Shabib said. “Our Nokhab program a few years ago was obviously 100 percent men because that’s all you had. We mandated that 50 percent of all fresh graduates coming into this would be women.”

When institutions open up to accepting more women on their staff, they become far more meritocratic, benefiting from a wider pool of talent and experience, Shabib said.

IN NUMBERS
Women and COVID-19
* 22% – Women in G20 countries who lack access to formal bank accounts.

* 64% – Women-led firms’ share of business ops strongly affected by COVID-19.

* 30% – Job losses for women anticipated in COVID-19-affected sectors.

“It means that I can choose the best among men and women,” she said. “The women we have are not the best because they’re women — they’re the best because they worked hard and they earned their spot here. They are competing just like everybody else. We hire the best.”

The result has been a much more positive work culture. “Having women in the leadership team at the SIDF has positively impacted the aspirations of junior women working with us and set for them a good picture of what their career progression could look like,” Shabib said.

Shabib is perhaps a model example of women’s professional empowerment. After completing a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, Shabib became Saudi Arabia’s first female field engineer with Schlumberger Drilling and Measurements in 2003.

In 2008 she earned an MBA at the University of Oxford and went on to work in Al-Khobar as deputy services manager at Rawabi Trading and Contracting Co. Then, between 2011 and 2017, she joined Saudi Aramco, working in multiple roles. During this time, she completed her second master’s degree in oil and gas leadership and in 2015 became an Eisenhower Fellow.

Shabib co-founded the Group (Qudwa) in 2012 to raise awareness about gender differences in the workplace. Its 5,000 members — 77 percent of them men — conducted over 60 events and workshops and established mentorship programs for young women, which were later handed over to Aramco’s diversity and inclusion division.

From here she took on a job at the Center for Strategic Development, a semi-governmental think tank providing decision-makers with evidence-based research on socio-economic development under the Ministry of Economy and Planning.

The panel also sought to highlight some of the best practices at a local and global level for bringing more women into manufacturing. (AFP/File Photo)

These experiences have clearly served her well since joining the SIDF in 2018. A key part of the fund’s mandate is enabling the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP), which is helping the Kingdom grow into a leading industrial power and international logistics hub through a range of lending and advisory products. Central to this is encouraging more women to launch and manage private sector ventures.

“For the past 46 years, the SIDF has witnessed some of the most successful businessmen that are now leading the industrial sector. Now, as we hire more talented women, we aim to support them and enrich the industrial sector with successful businesswomen,” Shabib said.

“All offerings apply a gender-neutral policy without discrimination on grounds of gender with regards to access to services and opportunities. The SIDF continues to innovate new, more tailored products and services that ensure the same opportunities are offered to both men and women investors to increase the private sector’s participation in the Kingdom.”

These initiatives and more were on show at the W20 summit earlier in October, where Shabib took part in a panel discussion called “Replicating success in inclusive manufacturing,” alongside Selina Jackson, senior vice president of global government relations and public policy at Procter & Gamble, and Mohammed Al-Mutlaq, head of strategy at Alfanar Group.

“The purpose of the session was to highlight the benefits of diversity. These benefits will reflect on the industrial landscape and shed light on reasons why there are fewer female entrepreneurs and industrialists,” said Shabib.

A picture taken on July 29, 2020 shows pilgrims circumambulating around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the centre of the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Makkah, at the start of the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP/File Photo)

The panel also sought to highlight some of the best practices at a local and global level for bringing more women into manufacturing — acknowledging where these efforts have been successful and identifying areas in need of improvement.

One success story is an Alfanar factory in Saudi Arabia, which has been operated by a staff of 650 women since 2004. “It is amazing. I visited the factory. It was so humbling and so inspiring because they love the place, they are so happy and empowered and they are growing in their careers. Some of them have been there for 17 years, so they love it,” Shabib said.

Procter & Gamble can also be considered a success story, having achieved 50:50 gender representation on its board of directors.

“One of the most important things that was mentioned is how important gender bias training was in shifting the culture to make the environment more welcoming and retaining of women,” Shabib said. “Selina was saying how eye-opening it was for men when they did the training.”

With these inspiring examples in mind, the SIDF is launching a new program in November, in association with the Council of Saudi Chambers devoted to empowering female entrepreneurs, titled “How to start your industrial project.”

“By hiring more women in the SIDF and investing in their development, whether it’s through our credit program or the programs that we have in partnership with Stanford, LBS, or Fitch Learning, we will be contributing to creating a good base for female industrialists who will contribute to the advancement of the country in the years to come,” Shabib said.

“It will also add to the level of awareness of what it takes to become an ambitious female industrial entrepreneur, which is our vision.”

Twitter: @LujainBenGassem

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