JCCI election outcome — women fail to make a mark

Updated 12 January 2014
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JCCI election outcome — women fail to make a mark

Saudi women, who have been striving hard to make their presence felt in various fields including business, have failed to seize the opportunity offered to them in the just-concluded election to the board of directors of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), putting up a pathetic show.
None of the eight women candidates who were in the fray managed to touch even the three-figure mark, leave alone winning a spot in the board. And they have their own kinfolk to blame as the voting trend suggests. Call it a failure of election strategy or banking on non-existent support, the woman candidates drew a blank, but they immediately raised the pitch for representation on the board as was done in the past.
“Yes, they did campaign with all enthusiasm but in the end, it didn’t pay off since the voting pattern reveals that many women members abstained from voting, an all important factor in such crunch situations,” said a poll observer. “Incidentally, JCCI has the distinction of opening the doors for women to contest elections, but Thursday’s poll results probably just fell short of proving their lack of preparedness for a direct fight.”
According to him, if all the women members had turned up to vote, there may have been something to cheer about in the women’s camp.
So, what went wrong for the women candidates besides the poor turnout of their kin? “They banked heavily on Lama Sulaiman, an influential businesswoman and vice chairperson of JCCI in the outgoing board, and other influential members, for support,” said another businessman. “Many women contestants claimed during the run-up to the election that they had Lama Sulaiman behind them. Besides Lama Sulaiman, they also counted on Nashwa Tahir, Abeer Qabani and Nadia Baeshen, who have considerable following in the JCCI, for support. It, however, didn’t translate into votes at the hustings.”
It is widely expected that the minister of commerce would appoint a woman member or two in the board among the six nominated members following their demand for representation.
Tracing back efforts to empower women, the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, for the first time in Saudi history, allowed women to vote in 2004, when it had 90 women on the rolls. In 2005, the JCCI allowed women to contest, the first time ever that the Kingdom allowed entry of women in election.
In the path-breaking election, Lama Sulaiman and Nashwa Taher won two of the 12 elected seats by contesting on panels headed by influential men from Jeddah’s leading merchant families. However, in the second term in 2009, only Lama Sulaiman made it from a field of seven women candidates.
Inspired by the Jeddah experiment, businesswomen in Eastern Province and Riyadh also fought in elections but ended up with dismal performances. And the reason in both places was the indifference on the part of women voters from turning up to cast their ballot.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has been encouraging women to participate in all societal activities, and as part of his vision, the Ministry of Commerce nominated women members to the Riyadh and Eastern Province chambers, as also in Jeddah.
Businesses owned by women in the Kingdom, both registered and unregistered, have been flourishing but they are mostly confined to fashion, jewelry, interior design, and photography. Other areas with a large presence are beauty salons, retail-wholesale, professional services such as consulting, marketing, public relations, event management and education.


First Saudi female air traffic controllers begin work

Updated 22 March 2019
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First Saudi female air traffic controllers begin work

  • Eleven women completed a one-year program conducted by Saudi Air Navigation Services

JEDDAH: Saudi Air Navigation Services (SANS) on Wednesday celebrated the appointment and start of work of the first batch of Saudi female air traffic controllers at an air traffic control center in Jeddah.
Eleven women completed a one-year program conducted by SANS in cooperation with the Saudi Academy of Civil Aviation. This is the first program to qualify women to work as air traffic controllers.
The academy initiative, in collaboration with SANS, seeks to create more jobs for women as part of a reform push to wean the economy off oil. Vision 2030 plan aims to increase employment and diversify revenue sources.
Earlier, SANS CEO Ryyan Tarabzoni said the state-owned company was prioritizing the hiring of women in the profession, as the country pushes to extend women’s rights in the country and also recruit more nationals as part of the “Saudization” project.