Time: 07 April 2021
The coronavirus disease remains a challenge for women health-wise, economically and socially. (AFP)
March is the month of women. Starting with International Women’s Day on March 8, the month also sees the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the largest UN gathering on gender equality (March 15-26), during which the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) releases its “Women in Politics” report. This year, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also marked the month with a milestone achievement: The launch of its specialized Women Development Organization (WDO).
The reports and indications presented at this year’s CSW65 highlighted some progress for women, but also reflected great concern due to some setbacks, especially as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The two-week virtual gathering — held under the theme “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls” — ended with the adoption by UN member states of the “Agreed Conclusions.” These recognize the need to significantly accelerate the pace of progress to ensure women’s full participation and leadership at all levels of decision-making in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and in the public sector. They also recognized that temporary special measures, such as quotas and increased political will, are needed as an enabling pathway to this goal.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) remains a challenge for women — health-wise, economically and socially. The Agreed Conclusions acknowledge that the pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities that perpetuate multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, as well as racism, stigmatization and xenophobia. The data shows that women have been mostly absent from COVID-19 government task forces around the world (they make up only 24 percent of the 225 task force members examined across 137 countries). Such disproportionate representation will hamper women’s recovery from the pandemic, thus prolonging their hardships, considering that COVID-19 has had a staggering impact on women — from their roles as front-line healthcare workers to the loss of jobs, particularly as the informal sector shrinks, and the alarming spike in domestic violence and the unpaid care burden, which threatens to push 47 million additional women into extreme poverty.
Meanwhile, the IPU-UN Women map of women in politics 2021, which provides global rankings of women in executive, government and parliamentary positions as of Jan. 1, shows all-time highs for the number of countries with female heads of state or heads of government (up to 22 countries from 20 last year, with Europe being the region with the most countries led by women) and the global share of women ministers, especially in Europe and the Americas. While women ministers continue to dominate the portfolios covering social, family and women’s affairs, there has been a slight increase in their share of traditionally male-led ministerial portfolios such as defense (up from 11.9 percent to 13.5 percent) and finance (from 10.1 percent to 11.5 percent), plus a significant increase in foreign affairs (from 16.8 percent to 26 percent).
However, despite the growing number of women at the highest levels of political power, widespread gender inequalities persist. Progression among women holding ministerial portfolios has slowed, with a small increase from 21.3 percent in 2020 to 21.9 percent in 2021; the number of countries with no women in government has increased from nine to 12; and only 25.5 percent of national parliamentarians are women, compared to 24.9 percent last year. The ranking of the regions in terms of the percentage of women in parliament is: The Americas (32.2 percent), Europe with the Nordic countries (30.5 percent), Europe without the Nordic countries (29.1 percent), Sub-Saharan Africa (25.1 percent), Asia (20.8 percent), the Middle East and North Africa (19.3 percent), and the Pacific (18 percent). The countries that have the highest percentage of women in parliament are Rwanda (61.3 percent), Cuba (53.4 percent) and the UAE (50 percent).
Although Saudi Arabia is among the countries that have no women in government, and the percentage of women in the Shoura Council remains at 20 percent, the Kingdom has made tremendous progress toward women’s empowerment, including making laws that eliminate discrimination against women, protect them from violence and support their full and effective participation in development at all levels. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 includes the National Transformation Program, which aimed to increase the rate of female participation in the labor market to 25 percent in 2020. This target was exceeded, with the country achieving 31 percent by the end of last year, with Saudi women assuming many leadership positions in various fields.
Meanwhile, the OIC has also gained traction on the road to female empowerment. On March 24, the Ministerial Council of the OIC’s WDO adopted its internal rules and regulations, thus setting it up to start operating. Taking off during an exceptional year, with circumstances that will have a long-term impact, the WDO has its work cut out for it. In addition to the factors highlighted in the CSW and IPU reports, women in many of the 57 member countries of the OIC (currently only 15 of them are members of the WDO) are also severely affected by conflict, instability, underdevelopment, terrorism and extremism, which not only hamper their participation in public life but also threaten their lives.
Despite the growing number of women at the highest levels of political power, widespread gender inequalities persist.
Numbers and percentages do not give the full picture and they can be misleading. More important than the number of women in parliament or their percentage in government and the portfolios they hold is the role they actually play, the contributions they make and their engagement in decision-making. Political, cultural, social and legislative barriers continue to hinder women’s full and effective participation in the development of societies worldwide. More concrete measures need to be taken at all levels of government and society that will enable women to play a more active role in decision-making.
Maha Akeel is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. Twitter: @MahaAkeel1
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view
The program was also extended to two years from the original 12 months. (File/Shutterstock)
The Saudi Human Resources Development Fund (HADAF) raised the financial support offered by the “Wusool” program to SR1100 monthly ($293)
RIYADH: A fund that provides financial assistance for Saudi women to get to work has been extended.
The Saudi Human Resources Development Fund (HADAF) raised the financial support offered by the “Wusool” program to SR1100 monthly ($293) from SR800 for those earning SR6000 or less, Al Eqtisadiah newspaper reported. The grant covers up to 80 percent of commute costs.
It comes as the government ushers in a number of reforms aimed at boosting the number of women at work.
The program was also extended to two years from the original 12 months, the newspaper said.
Transport is provided through companies licensed by the Ministry of Transport to ensure the safety of users.
The program covers 13 regions across the Kingdom, consisting of Riyadh, Makkah, the Eastern Province, Al Madinah, Tabuk, Asir, Qassim, Hail, Jizan, the Northern Borders, Najran, Al-Jouf, and Al-Baha.
The winners of the Princess Seetah bint Abdul Aziz Award, selected from 404 applications, received their honors during a socially distanced virtual ceremony broadcast live via YouTube
RIYADH: A group of seven winners have been awarded a prestigious Saudi accolade for their excellence in social work during the coronavirus pandemic.
The winners of the Princess Seetah bint Abdul Aziz Award, selected from 404 applications, received their honors during a socially distanced virtual ceremony broadcast live via YouTube.
Each award winner delivered a short video presentation explaining their social work initiatives over the last year and how they were able to provide aid to people throughout the Kingdom suffering the financial, health, and social effects of the global virus outbreak.
Held in the luxury surroundings of the Prince Sultan Grand Hall at Al-Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh, the awards ceremony and celebratory lunch was restricted to just winners and their main contributors due to COVID-19 precautionary measures.
Secretary-general of the social work awards, Fahad Al-Maghlouth, said: “There is room for hope and giving, and today we celebrate to honor the winners of the Princess Seetah bint Abdul Aziz Award for excellence in social work in its eighth session, and we have the right to be proud of them.”
The theme of this year’s awards was “social work in the face of crises and dangers,” and winners were congratulated by Prince Turki bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Saud, Ahmed Al-Rajhi, the chairman of the board of the Princess Seetah Foundation and Saudi minister of human resources and social development, and Al-Maghlouth.
Al-Rajhi said: “Our dear country has remained proud with its advanced developmental achievements and its sincere and honorable humanitarian stances when difficulties intensify, challenges emerge, and tribulations besiege us, despite all the difficult circumstances the world has experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This country, by the grace of God, and then through the efforts of our wise leadership, was a model for the concept of a strong state with its ambitions, ready for crises with all its energies, prepared in terms of the readiness of its infrastructures, support for the people on its land and everywhere. Do we not have the right to feel proud and pride?”
The minister also highlighted the Saudi green project that aims to invest in promoting quality of life and support for those in need.
“The project targets remote areas and needy families, and works on development, training, and support in accordance with specific environmental programs throughout the year in coordination with the relevant authorities … to improve social conditions and environmental living for citizens and families to help them lead a decent and productive life.”
The program titled, “The Green Project: Together to Support Green Saudi Arabia” assists in career development, year-round training, city development, and environmental growth.
Addressing the awards ceremony, Al-Rajhi noted the importance of social work in contributing to the development of the Kingdom and he praised King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for making “human stability their top priority.”
Al-Maghlouth said the award winners were shining examples of the “generosity and loyalty without limits” shown by the nation, adding that “the most amazing achievements are when they carry human touches that rejoice hearts and draw smiles and inspire optimism and confirm the depth of cohesion between the sons of the nation and its leadership.”
Following the speeches, a video presentation documented some of the health, bereavement, and financial challenges being faced by the world from the COVID-19 pandemic and how collaborative schemes such as track-and-trace apps, humanitarian aid, and financial assistance had helped to ease hardships.
The category winners were:
The excellence in national achievement award went to the health ministry’s volunteering program and education ministry’s distance learning digital platform Madrasati (my school).
The Madrasti system helped more than 5 million public and 1 million private students from 900 schools throughout the Kingdom forced to close during the pandemic.
The General Authority for Endowments scooped the excellence in Islamic endowment accolade for helping to mitigate the effects of the virus on people through its humanitarian initiatives.
The Madinah Al-Munawarah NGO was presented with the excellence in social work award for its good city initiative.
Sheikh Abdullah Ibrahim Al-Subeaei received the excellence for social work entrepreneurs honor for setting up a charitable institution and donating money to various causes in the Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Advanced Petrochemical Co. was awarded the corporate social responsibility award for pandemic projects, and Sadara Chemical Co. for its work with the health sector in tackling COVID-19.
The late Princess Seetah bint Abdul Aziz was known for her generosity and compassion toward those in need, running numerous social assistance programs.
Dr. Shuaa Al-Nifie
Dr. Shuaa Al-Nifie has been an educational counselor at the Saudi Permanent Delegation to UNESCO since March.
Starting in 2016, she served for four years as vice dean for the academic development deanship and for quality assurance and academic accreditation at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University (PNU).
She was also a strategic planning consultant and an assistant professor of educational leadership at the department of educational planning and management at the university’s College of Education.
Al-Nifie received a bachelor’s degree in English literature from PNU in 2005. Three years later, she was awarded a master’s degree in the same field of study from the Riyadh-based Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University. In 2012, Al-Nifie obtained a doctorate in educational leadership from Seattle University, US.
From 2005 to 2009, Al-Nifie served as an administrative coordinator and English teacher at the Asrary Montessori School, Riyadh. She administered and corrected TOEFL tests and managed the first trip for students at the school to visit oil company Saudi Aramco, in the Eastern Province.
For nearly a year and a half, she had the opportunity to work in collaboration with top executives at Seattle University. The experience enriched Al-Nifie’s organizational skills and student development background, especially with regard to quality assurance and strategic planning.
From 2012 to 2016, Al-Nifie was a faculty member at the College of Humanities and the institutional accreditation department at Prince Sultan University, where she also taught research writing to senior students.
Mona Saleh Al-Ghamdi. (SPA)
Mona Al-Ghamdi: “She is the fundamental core of the family and society, as well as a key member in achieving Saudi Vision 2030 that reinforced reforms in the status of women and their empowerment to easily perform their national duties”
NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia has affirmed its commitment to women’s rights and said that advancing their role locally, regionally and globally is a top priority for the Kingdom’s leaders.
Speaking at the closing statement during the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN headquarters in New York, Mona Saleh Al-Ghamdi, a member of Saudi Arabia’s delegation, said that the Kingdom sought to enhance women’s roles in social development through empowering them to participate in decision-making processes in all government and private sectors socially, economically and politically.
In her opening statement, Al-Ghamdi thanked the officers of the 65th session and the delegations for their efforts to achieve consensus throughout the five-week negotiation period of the final document of the year. This focused on the full and effective participation of women, their decision-making in public life, the elimination of violence against them, and the achievement of gender equality and empowerment for women and girls.
Al-Ghamdi said that the Saudi delegation participated in the negotiations consistently and constructively. It was also keen to achieve consensus whenever possible and in a way that did not conflict with Islamic law, regulations and national principles.
She confirmed the delegation’s interest in coming up with a document that reinforced the progress of historical reforms the Kingdom continued to achieve under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“The leadership considers women as active members in all areas of national development,” she said. “She is the fundamental core of the family and society, as well as a key member in achieving Saudi Vision 2030 that reinforced reforms in the status of women and their empowerment to easily perform their national duties.”
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar said the attacks by Iran-backed militias on the Kingdom threaten civilians. (File/Wikipedia)
Lives of innocent civilians at risk from actions of Iran-backed militias, says Princess Reema bint Bandar
‘We are exercising extreme restraint in the face of a daily barrage of weaponized drones and ballistic missiles,’ she adds
LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US said “egregious terrorist attacks” by Iran-backed militias on the Kingdom threatened both civilians and global energy security.
In the most recent incident, Arab coalition forces intercepted a drone targeting an oil tank yard in Ras Tanura Port and a missile heading for an Aramco residential area in Dhahran on Sunday.
The attacks “represent a threat to the stability of global energy supplies, affecting the entire global economy and endangering the lives of Saudi workers in Aramco and thousands more from 80 different nationalities, including Americans,” Princess Reema bint Bandar said on Wednesday.
She added: “We are exercising extreme restraint in the face of a daily barrage of weaponized drones and ballistic missiles.”
The envoy praised the “brave and remarkable efforts” of the Saudi Armed Forces in successfully intercepting more than 526 Houthi drones and more than 346 ballistic missiles, and protecting civilians from all manner of threats.
She said that the situation is distressing because despite the Kingdom’s efforts to resolve the conflict in Yemen, Houthi cross-border attacks have escalated in the past few weeks. In addition, she said, the Iran-backed group has launched an offensive in an attempt to take control of the oil-rich city of Marib, which has been a safe haven for internally displaced people since the conflict began six years ago. The Houthis have also shelled and bombarded the city of Taiz and other Yemeni civilian locations, she added.
“The Kingdom is committed to ending the war in Yemen through a political resolution but on the other side of this conflict is a group driven by the extremist ideology of the Iranian regime,” Princess Reema said.
The Houthi militias continue to disregard the suffering of the people of Yemen and are not interested in serious discussions to resolve the conflict, she added. Meanwhile the Kingdom, from the beginning of the conflict, has shown determination to restore stability and security to the war-torn country through a negotiated settlement, she said.
The Kingdom also supports all UN-led peace initiatives, Princess Reema said, and Saudi officials are actively supporting the work of Martin Griffiths, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen, and Tim Lenderking, the newly appointed US special envoy to the country.
Meanwhile, Iran continues to provide weapons, training and technical support to the Houthis, she said as she called on the international community to take action to prevent the smuggling into Yemen of Iranian weapons that are “being used to terrorize Yemenis and to launch attacks on civilian targets in Saudi Arabia.”
The princess also pointed out that the Houthis have denied UN teams access to carry out emergency repairs on the Safer oil tanker, which has been moored in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen for more than five years. Its condition has deteriorated to the extent that it threatens a catastrophic oil spill, which experts warn could be four times as bad as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.
Over the past few years, the kingdom has witnessed 90 major human rights reforms, of which women’s empowerment constitutes the largest share
The reforms undertaken by the kingdom to empower women since the launch of Vision 2030 has helped the Saudi economy become more resilient.(REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo)
The past year, plagued by the unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic, has undoubtedly been challenging for all economies alike. A sound recovery from the pandemic is possible with women at the frontlines. In line with the International Women’s Day theme this year, Saudi Arabia, too, celebrates women’s tremendous contribution in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the pandemic.
The reforms undertaken by the kingdom to empower women since the launch of Vision 2030 has helped the Saudi economy become more resilient. Led by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia has witnessed 90 major human rights reforms over the past few years, and women’s empowerment constitutes the largest share of these reforms.
For two years in a row, Saudi Arabia has achieved notable progress in “Women, Business and the Law Report”, a global measure of women legal reforms published by the World Bank. On a scale of 1 to 100, Saudi Arabia scored 80 in WBL 2021, up from 70.6 in WBL 2020. Our scores in the indicators of mobility, workplace, pay, entrepreneurship, and pension put us on par with many advanced economies with long traditions of women legal reforms.
This achievement builds on landmark changes in Saudi Arabia, including empowering women with the right to vote and run as candidates in municipal elections in 2015 and the right to drive in 2017. In 2018, Saudi Arabia criminalised sexual harassment in public and private sector employment. Legal amendments now protect women from discrimination in employment, including job advertisements and hiring, and prohibit employers from dismissing a woman during her pregnancy and maternity leave. Saudi Arabia also equalised the retirement age for women and men at 60 years, extending women’s working lives, earnings, and contributions. And, most recently, the Saudi Ministry of Defence has opened its doors for women to join the armed forces.
The elimination of all restrictions on women’s employment in industrial jobs, such as mining, construction, and manufacturing, has already translated into key changes on the ground. The overall rate of women’s participation in the labour market increased from 22 per cent to nearly 30 per cent in the last two years. The growth in certain sectors has been very impressive. For instance, the proportion of women staff at the Saudi Industrial Development Fund increased from zero to 17 per cent in just three years. Today, the industrial sector offers more than 39,000 job opportunities to women, a rate of 37 per cent of nationalisation of jobs.
In fact, the private sector registered a 130 per cent increase in the number of working Saudi women during the last four years. Today 30 per cent of the total Saudi work force in the private sector is represented by women. This progress will certainly gain more momentum in future. Women represent 58 per cent of university students in Saudi Arabia, with science, technology and engineering being their preferred subjects of choice that they further pursue overseas. The talent pool will add to the intellectual capital of Saudi Arabia.
Reforms tend to have a multiplier effect. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Justice had earlier approved four landmark decisions in support of women’s rights pertaining to protecting minors, divorcees, women who have custody of their children and law graduates. Those reforms have led to an increase in the number of licenced female lawyers in the Kingdom by 66 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019. The Ministry of Justice has created a women’s department. As thousands of women attend programmes run by the Justice Training Centre, many more will enter the legal workforce.
Women entrepreneurship has also been encouraged by prohibiting gender-based discrimination in accessing financial services. As a result, the number of women-owned companies in the Kingdom increased by 60 per cent in the past two years.
Empowerment is not only about creating job opportunities but also about providing a conducive environment to nurture talent. Our efforts in this direction continue unabated. To keep pace with the need of the digital labour market, two digital colleges have been opened in Riyadh and Jeddah to offer women specialised training programmes in network systems management, Internet of Things, smart cities, robotics technology and artificial intelligence. The Transportation Program for Working Women (Wusool), which provides 80 per cent subsidy, has over 10,000 registered Saudi female employees. The programme not only aims to find solutions to reduce transportation costs for Saudi women working in the private sector but also to improve and develop the environment needed to transport women from and to workplaces, by ensuring high-safety and high-quality transportation service in partnership with private taxi companies using licenced smart apps.
Today, women hold decision-making positions in the public and private sectors, assuming important roles such as deputy minister, ambassador, university director, and chairperson of the board of directors in a number of companies. Women have broken the proverbial glass ceiling across sectors — Saudi Arabia now has its first female professional racing driver, award-winning women film producers and women judges.
We are committed to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to women at the global level and strongly support an inclusive approach that empowers women in the economic, social, health, educational, technological, and cultural sectors, among others. The Saudi G20 Presidency worked with the theme of “Realising Opportunities of the 21st Century for All”, and accorded special attention to discussing policies related to women, through engagement groups and various ministerial meetings. The Saudi leadership of G20 ensured the participation of women in decision-making by sharing recommendations of the Women 20 Engagement Group (W20) in the G20 meetings. A number of tailored initiatives such as the “Empowerment and Progression of Women’s Economic Representation” (EMPOWER) have been launched to tackle the challenges facing women.
Women empowerment will continue to be at the heart of our ongoing efforts to realise the Vision 2030 goals and to bring about a prosperous future for all.
The writer is Ambassador to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in India
The new goals set on the horizon are leadership, direction and making an impact on the future
RIYADH: As we mark International Women’s Day, we see the new highs Saudi women have soared to since the launch of Vision 2030 in the Kingdom.
Reforms have changed the narrative surrounding women’s empowerment from inclusivity and equality to notability and distinction. Women’s accomplishments as part of Vision 2030 have set the stage for the further success and achievement of young female leaders in the Kingdom.
The goals of Saudi women are no longer equality or equal opportunity, but rather surpassing their counterparts in ideology, accomplishments and innovation across all sectors. In doing so, they have paved the way for a young and determined generation of future female leaders. These innovative accomplishments are all due to the stepping stones laid out by Vision 2030’s extensive social reforms for women.
Now, Saudi women are ambassadors, general managers, directors of private entities, government spokespersons and more. Their voices are now heard wide and clear across the world.
As of February 2021, women are earning ranks in the Kingdom’s armed forces and holding positions of leadership, including as sergeants commanding teams of soldiers in the Saudi Arabian Army, Royal Saudi Air Defense, Royal Saudi Navy, Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force and Armed Forces Medical Services.
It is simply no longer the aim of Saudi women to hope for inclusivity in society and the workplace. The new goals set on the horizon are leadership, direction and making an impact on the future of the Kingdom, whether through financial growth, social reform, or paving the way for new generations of women to succeed.
Vision 2030’s initiatives and reforms have not only affected the careers of women, but also their social lives — amplifying voices that were not always able to be heard. Legal reforms have been amended by Vision 2030 to ensure the rights of divorced women. An alimony fund was created to support women and their children during court proceedings, and women are now able to enter judicial departments independently without the past restriction of having a guardian present. In the past, judgments meant women had to return back to their homes without any objections, but since Vision 2030, these regulations are a literal thing of the past — a historic blimp in the bright future ahead.
It is no exaggeration to say that when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was appointed in his position in 2017, promises were made and delivered.
Women are involved in the workforce, driving on the roads and are more independent, particularly with the relaxing of the guardianship law last year. Tools such as the sexual harassment law were put in place to ensure their safety, and they found complete support from the government in facilitating their ambitions, including being appointed to high positions.
In July 2020, under a royal decree by King Salman, 13 women were appointed to serve on the Saudi Human Rights Commission, making half of the commission female. This decision gave women a louder voice and a foundation through which to make an impact in the Kingdom.
Women are now a driving force in growing the Kingdom’s alternative economic resources, and over the past decade there has been a surge in the number of female entrepreneurs, business owners and CEOs.
• Saudi women are now ambassadors, general managers, directors of private entities, government spokespersons and more.
• As of February 2021, women are earning ranks in the Kingdom’s armed forces and holding positions of leadership.
• An alimony fund was created to support women and their children during court proceedings.
• Women are now able to enter judicial departments independently without the past restriction of having a guardian present.
• In July 2020, under a royal decree by King Salman, 13 women were appointed to serve on the Saudi Human Rights Commission.
Dr. Maliha Hashmi, executive director for the health and wellbeing sector of the NEOM megacity project, is a young female health leader in the region. She said that Vision 2030 has created the opportunity for women to build new roles and transform older expectations in a positive way.
“Through Vision 2030, social acceptance, and most of all, the continuous support of the government, we’ll see a balanced leadership, in both the private and public sectors, represented by both men and women. Plus, I’m very optimistic that we’ll witness in the near future more women in ministerial and international representation,” she said.
“Under the visionary leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has taken a giant step forward in empowering its women. While the world knows and talks about women drivers on Saudi roads, there’s more to this socio-economic and cultural change than meets the eye,” Hashmi, a Harvard doctorate degree holder, told Arab News.
“More high-tech startups can now be owned by women. There are now female diplomats in the GCC. I am super excited that this started in Saudi Arabia with Princess Reema bint Bandar as the first Saudi female ambassador. I am also honored to represent NEOM as one of its leading female executives. I hope this passion within me for this amazing project is contagious and is an encouragement for other young women to join, and that I can serve as a great role model for them.”
Vision 2030 has changed the dynamic of the Kingdom and not only opened it to the world, but also to many Saudis.
Women from the Kingdom are now seen traveling around the world and exploring new cultures without the obligatory presence of a male guardian, due to a decree allowing women to obtain their own passports and travel over the age of 21 without a male guardian.
Vision 2030 gave women the right to drive, planting the seeds that led to the emergence of the first professional female racing driver, Reema Al-Juffali. The reforms also created equal opportunity in science, and pushed women scientists into the limelight, such as Nouf Al-Numair, a “DNA decoder” who researches the early detection of emerging diseases through gene mutation. This is only a glimpse into the world of achievements female leaders in Saudi Arabia have created as a result of empowerment in the Kingdom.
It is evident that the fast changes led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have also had a global impact. For the second year in a row, the “Women, Business and the Law 2021” report by the World Bank Group listed Saudi Arabia as one of the top countries for economic inclusion and women’s reform.
One woman who has benefited from the changes is Noura Al-Dossary. Orphaned at a young age and divorced with one daughter, Al-Dossary was in a predicament. Her sister and her brother-in-law helped her, but she soon realized she had to support both herself and her daughter financially.
“Vision 2030 opened doors for me that I thought were bolted shut,” she told Arab News. Coming from a conservative background, and with limited education, she ventured into various workplaces, and soon found work at a small college. However, she was unsatisfied with the pay, the work atmosphere and the lack of insurance and benefits. But an opportunity soon presented itself in a laundry department at a five-star hotel.
She was attentive to detail, eager to learn and grateful for the opportunity. “I was exposed to a different world. I met people from diverse nationalities, mixed with the opposite gender and quickly learned English on the job — something I never dreamed of.”
Al-Dossary’s workplace enrolled her in courses to not only further her career, but also her character. “I felt invested in it,” she said, a sentiment that many Saudi women share. “People tell me: ‘Oh, but you work in laundry.’ But let me tell you something: I’m proud of myself.”
There are many women like Al-Dossary who have succeeded in their own right. They may not appear in the headlines, but they are a vital part of Saudi society.
“I’m able to financially support my family, have insurance and benefits, and I bought a home,” said Al-Dossary. “None of this would have been possible without Vision 2030. I am independent and I finally found the support I needed to realize my dreams.”
Formula 4 driver Al-Juffali has high aspirations as 2021 Formula E season gets underway
RIYADH: Ahead of the 2021 Diriyah E-Prix double-header on Friday, Arab News caught up with Reema Al-Juffali, one of Saudi Arabia’s rising stars in motorsports. Al-Juffali, 29, talked about Formula E, sustainability and her dream race.
Q: You made history in Diriyah by becoming the first female racer to drive competitively in the Kingdom during the Jaguar I-Pace. What did that moment mean to you?
That was a day of many firsts for me and one I will cherish for the rest of my life. It was my first time racing in an electric car and my first time racing in an international event on home soil, so it was truly a historic moment for me and my country. I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to race in front of home fans and it was the highlight of my career so far. Hopefully, there will be many more opportunities like this in the future.
Q: The Diriyah Circuit has become one of the more iconic circuits in Formula E. What do you think makes it so special?
The circuit has been hailed by many drivers as a very unique and challenging track to drive. I think part of this is because we have the world’s most modern motorsport taking place on a site that honors the Kingdom’s past. It is a very special combination. Racing in the heart of Diriyah gives you a very strong feeling of connection to our Kingdom’s history. For me, having never raced on a street circuit before, I had to adjust to being closer to the walls while driving an electric car but it is something I love and will never forget.
Q: Now in its third year, we have seen Saudis become more engaged with the Diriyah E-Prix. Can you tell us about the excitement you are sensing ahead of this year’s race?
The passion for motorsport in the Kingdom runs deep. Bringing events like Formula E to Saudi is very exciting for racing fans who are not familiar with street racing. I am also very proud of the first Formula E night race to take place at the circuit on home soil, which will be an incredible moment for the country and the sport. It is fantastic to see the organizers making the most of the global spotlight that motorsport brings. It will showcase some of the beauty of our land and our capacity to put on brilliant, world-class events.
Q: Formula E stretches beyond just sports, it also aims to promote a sustainable and clean future, which is in line with the Saudi government’s initiatives. How important is it for a sport to promote the sustainability message in the Kingdom and beyond?
Our country is on a journey toward sustainability. Formula E’s message for promoting a clean future complements the aspirations of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. As a driver, I feel a responsibility to spread awareness regarding the need for a more sustainable approach to everyday life. I am honored to be a part of this journey towards a more environmentally conscious future.
Q: You are currently competing in Formula 4. What are your aspirations for the future?
One of my ultimate goals in life is to race Le Mans with some of the best drivers in the world. But more than anything I just want to excel in my field, regardless of the category or the event. I want to feel proud of my performance. The sky is the limit.