Love is in the air as Saudis enjoy a red Valentine

Saudis enjoyed a hassle-free Valentine's Day in Saudi Arabia.
Updated 15 February 2017
0

Love is in the air as Saudis enjoy a red Valentine

JEDDAH: With fifty shades of red, local flower shops were celebrating the strong presence of red roses on Valentine’s Day on Tuesday in the absence of restrictions from the Committee of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, also known as the religious police.
Saudis wishing to celebrate Valentine’s Day have been able to purchase roses, which in previous years had been confiscated from flower shops by members of the religious authorities.
Many flower shops in Jeddah, visited by Arab News, were selling roses and flowers, albeit with hiked prices. Custom-made Valentine boxes with flowers and balloons start from SR550.
Meanwhile, Al-Hayat daily reported similar sales in Al-Ahsa and other Saudi areas. However, some flower shopkeepers opted voluntarily not to sell roses to avoid trouble with the religious authorities. No shop owners reported any problems.
One florist in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, however, preferred to avoid highlighting this occasion.
“I will not sell red roses on this day, as the matter does not need a ban order,” one anonymous Riyadh florist told Al-Hayat. “We have experienced problems in the past and I am not willing to go through the same dilemma again.”
Saudis on social media celebrated the annual day of love by posting affectionate messages, while others insisted that they will not celebrate it citing ideological reasons. Some Saudis say the event is a pagan ritual and refuse to participate because they believe it is an act to imitate the west.
Humor and irony were the dominant theme on this occasion among locals who shared sarcastic tweets and videos on their social platforms.
Nader (@LeoNader) posted a video of a football match featuring his favorite sports team with the caption: “This is my Valentine.” While Hassan (@iiHM_) shared a picture of NETFLIX saying: “You are my Valentine.”
Another Twitter user (@Sho_Sho232) expressed her feelings on how the Haia (the commission) members are missed on such occasion.
“And this is how we discovered that no one gives Valentine’s Day any significance other than the Haia. Valentine’s Day lost its spirit without our clergies.”
Many Saudis said that love should be celebrated throughout the year, not only for one day. “We experience love in every detail on our day. One day is not enough to celebrate it,” tweeted (@memo44447).
And like everywhere else in the world, some single Saudis who complained about spending the occasion alone tweeted funny posts suggesting that their Valentine date is going to be a... shawarma sandwich! “Thanks to my shawarma it has never let me down.”


How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

Dr. Fatima Alakeel, cybersecurity expert. (AN photo)
Updated 20 March 2019
0

How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

  • ‘Securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,’ says Dr. Fatema Alakeel of King Saud University in Riyadh
  • ‘Saudi women are ambitious,’ says one graduate. ‘We are acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers’

DUBAI: More and more girls in Saudi Arabia are opting for an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and now the challenge is finding them employment, said Dr. Fatima Alakeel, a cybersecurity expert and faculty member at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh.
“In the Kingdom, STEM-related jobs are limited at the moment, as the economy is primarily oil-based and there are few technical jobs available,” said Alakeel, who is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability Group (CIAG), which focuses on information security training and research in Riyadh.
According to a government report on the labor market situation in the third quarter of 2018, more than 30 percent of Saudi women aged between 15 and 65 are unemployed.
Among them, the highest rate of unemployment is among 20-24-year-olds (more than 70 percent) and among 25-29-year-olds (55 percent).
According to the report, there are 923,504 Saudi jobseekers, of whom 765,378 are women (82.2 percent).
“We have more girls in STEM education compared to Western countries,” said Alakeel, who completed her doctoral degree in computer science in the UK at the University of Southampton in 2017.
According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry, girls accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom.
That same year, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics and statistics, and physics.
According to a survey Alakeel recently conducted on social media, “almost 80 percent of (Saudi) girls were keen to study STEM, but securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,” she said.
Maha Al-Taleb, 22, graduated earlier this year with a degree in technology from KSU, specializing in IT networks and security.
“It’s common for girls in the Kingdom to opt for STEM education,” said Al-Taleb, who now works in a public sector company in Riyadh as a junior information security analyst.
“Saudi women are ambitious. We’re acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers. I don’t know why the world assumes that Saudi women are a backward tribal species who have no say in these matters. This entire perception is flawed.”
Al-Taleb got a job offer immediately after university, but realizes that not all her peers are as fortunate. Women “are facing problems in securing jobs, not because companies don’t want to hire us, but because employment for Saudi youths is a major challenge,” she said.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, parents are encouraging their daughters to get a degree not just in the Kingdom; they also want them to go to Western universities. It has become a common phenomenon. Things have changed. Women are a crucial part of the nation’s development process.”
Not all women graduating in the Kingdom are as lucky, among them Razan Al-Qahtani. “It has been several months since I graduated, yet I haven’t been able to find a job. It has been a struggle so far,” said the 25-year-old IT graduate. “We have more talented and qualified girls, especially in the field of technology, but there are few jobs available. It’s a difficult situation, but we’re hopeful things will change very soon.”
Al-Qahtani expressed confidence that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan will bring opportunities for qualified Saudis.
As part of Vision 2030, the government has committed to raise employment among Saudi women.
Alakeel said the government is working hard to find a solution, and it is only a matter of time until more such jobs are on offer.
“As per Vision 2030, there will be more jobs, including technical jobs, available in the country. Once we have more jobs, women will eventually get their due share,” she added. According to Alakeel, female empowerment and promotion to leading roles have made huge progress in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect existing STEM job opportunities.
“We’re glad to see Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud becoming the first female ambassador of the country. It only suggests change is on the way,” Alakeel said.
Al-Taleb expressed pride in the way her parents have supported her, saying: “My father isn’t educated and my mother has basic literacy, but both provided me with the education I desired. They want their daughters to be as successful as their sons.”
Like women in any country, the transition from university to the workplace is not always easy, even for young Saudi women with technology degrees. Yet they are not losing hope.
“We realize these are difficult times in terms of employment, especially in technology-related fields, but things will change,” Al-Taleb said. “Saudi women will soon be ruling the fields of STEM all over the country.”