250 Saudi women to get jobs as part of SR500m project launched in Riyadh

Japanese Ambassador Norihiro Okuda, right, Unicharm Gulf Hygienic Industries Limited, Mahdy Katbe, left, and Takahisa Takahara, president and CEO of Unicharm Corporation, second left, seen during the launch of the program held at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh on Wednesday. (AN photo by Iqbal Hossain)
Updated 21 April 2017

250 Saudi women to get jobs as part of SR500m project launched in Riyadh

RIYADH: About 250 Saudi women will work in new manufacturing jobs as part of a major SR500 million-expansion program under a Saudi-Japanese joint venture.
Japanese Ambassador Norihiro Okuda, Mahdy Katbe, of Unicharm Gulf Hygienic Industries Limited, and Takahisa Takahara, president and CEO of Unicharm launched the project.
Katbe told Arab News that his company currently employs 73 local women, 30 percent of whom have special needs. In a bid to empower women, he said, women workers have been given all needed facilities and services and they are allowed to bring their infants and keep them at the site while they work.
Unicharm Gulf Hygienic Industries is a joint venture company between Al-Murjan Group and The Japanese Unicharm Corporation, a manufacturer and distributor of health products. Unicharm’s annual sales exceeds $2.5 billion.
Katbe said that his company maintains more than the 30 percent Saudi workers on its workforce, as required by the government.
The new factory will bring in the latest technology to produce diapers for babies and adults.
Okuda said that the bilateral relations between Japan and the Kingdom have been further stepped up following the recent visit of King Salman and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Tokyo. He pointed out that the private sectors of the two countries are working together to help the Kingdom achieve its 2030 Vision.
The envoy estimated the bilateral trade to be in the range of $50 billion and the balance of trade in favor of Saudi Arabia since it exports oil and petro-chemical products to the value of $40 billion.
Saudi Arabia and Japan have become close strategic partners as well as strong allies with progressively growing commercial and cultural links, he said.
He said plans are underway to transfer Japanese technology on desalination projects to the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 50 min 46 sec ago

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

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