Time: April 13, 2018
Princess Reema bint Bandar
Parents worry about their children going abroad to study and staying there because life was easier
The changes encompassed in Vision 2030 constituted evolution, not revolution
PARIS: Changes in women’s status may have come too late for some, but mothers in Saudi Arabia are thrilled that their daughters will benefit, says entrepreneur and philanthropist Princess Reema bint Bandar.
Princess Reema, who is deputy head of planning and development at the General Sport Authority, told Arab News: “Mothers say that even though they did not have the same chances, they are very glad that their children will.
“They may worry about them, but that’s a universal worry shared by any parent.”
At the same time, she said she was well aware that there was resistance to the reforms from some sections of the older generation.
“We held some forums with students in the US and they told us that they want to work and do things but their parents say no, and I have to admit we dropped the ball on that aspect. So then we had to sit and work out how to persuade and reassure the parent generation.”
The princess said young Saudis were now returning to their homeland after studying abroad.
“Parents worry about their children going abroad to study and staying there because life was easier. But nowadays they are coming back home because there are opportunities for them,” said the princess, who herself returned to Riyadh after graduating from George Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in museum studies.
One of the princess’s roles in the General Sport Authority is to work on long-term job creation and develop a career structure in sport.
“If you’re an athlete, then obviously your career is short. We are dealing with sport as an industry. We are able to show that sport can and does produce long-term jobs with a career structure and an income trajectory,” she said.
Princess Reema, a successful retail entrepreneur whose father was a former Saudi ambassador to the US, was one of the business leaders addressing the Saudi-French Business Forum in Paris on Tuesday. She has launched her own handbag brand and when she was CEO of Alfa International, which operates luxury store Harvey Nichols in Riyadh, she bought more women into the workforce and provided child care services.
At the business forum she spoke passionately about the untapped potential of women in Saudi Arabia.
“This is not a dream. Women’s inclusion is not happening because we want to get Americans to say Saudi Arabia is a great place. It is happening because it is our right,” she said.
Addressing a room packed with the CEOs of leading French companies; she continued: “What we need to learn from you is how to integrate sports into the economy, as you have done.”
Her mission, both abroad and at home, was not necessarily to change people’s views of women or of Saudis, she said.
“We are not asking you to change an opinion of us that you already hold, but to consider a fact: We are the future.”
The princess evoked the French tradition of the salon, “with scientists, artists and philosophers talking to each other.”
She stressed that the changes encompassed in Vision 2030 constituted evolution, not revolution.
“You had to have a revolution here,” she said, referring to the 1789 revolt that resulted in the removal of the monarchy in France. “We don’t have to have one because we have learned from the past. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression — without these you cannot have a creative society. It’s not about being more American or more Chinese or Russian. It’s about being the best Saudis we can be.”
This article was first published in Arab News
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Time: 09 August 2016
Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud
RIO DE JANEIRO: A US-raised Saudi princess freshly appointed to increase female participation in sports plans to help license gyms and modify outdoor spaces for women in the Kingdom, she said in an interview on Monday.
Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud was last week tapped for the job at the General Sports Authority in a country where women are barred from driving and subject to a restrictive male guardianship system.
But as part of a sweeping economic reform and amid high obesity rates, Riyadh is also planning to make it easier for women to work out.
In her first interview with English-language media since her appointment, Princess Reema said there was “no turning back” on the plans, but warned the pace of reform may not be fast enough for a Western audience.
“We will not go and break societal norms and we will not go and create cultural clashes, what we will do is create opportunities,” said Princess Reema, 41, speaking in Rio where she has been supporting the four female Saudi athletes competing in the 2016 Olympic Games.
“Our biggest mandate right now is mass participation,” she said, adding she would have more details once she officially takes up her role next month.
Women in Saudi Arabia face significant hurdles to practice sports. They must wear head-to-toe garments in public, observe strict rules on gender segregation and obtain permission from a male guardian to travel, study or marry.
Women’s gyms are not eligible for licenses, so they are scarce or operate on the sly.
While US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch said in a report earlier this month there had been some progress in women’s rights to participate in sports, it called on Saudi Arabia to remove the “serious barriers” that remain.
“I’m glad that people are recognizing we’re moving,” said Princess Reema, who grew up in the D.C. area because her father was the long-time ambassador to Washington and has gone on to work in business.
“I understand that from an international point of view they might not think we’re moving fast enough. But one thing they need to absolutely understand in the Middle East is that it’s an elastic community. If we pull too fast, you break that elastic.”
As part of nurturing women’s participation in sports, she said her agenda would include pushing for female coaches, women’s bathrooms in public spaces, and Shariah-compliant workout clothes.
The female Saudi athletes at the Olympics — only the second group ever, in Rio with male guardians — are already inspiring their counterparts back home to put their sneakers on, Princess Reema said.
“The overwhelming majority, especially of young women, has essentially said: ‘if they can do it means I can’,” said Princess Reema, a basketball fan and skier.
This article was first published in Arab News
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