Cherie Blair: Lifting of Saudi ban on women driving ‘superb — but more to be done’

Cherie Blair
Updated 20 October 2017
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Cherie Blair: Lifting of Saudi ban on women driving ‘superb — but more to be done’

SVETI STEFAN, Montenegro: British QC Cherie Blair, in an exclusive interview with Arab News, has said the removal of the Saudi women’s driving ban is “superb news.”
Blair, a prominent human-rights lawyer and founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, said she believes the lifting of the ban will unleash new potential for women, but that “there is more to be done.”
In a rare interview with the press, the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “While it is a positive step, it’s not really just a question of driving — it needs to be about women being able to engage in every level of society.”
Speaking from the islet of Sveti Stefan, Montenegro, where she hosted a talk at The Global Citizen Forum, Blair said that “small changes lead to big changes.”
She added: “When it comes to change, most people are pragmatists — men and women alike.
“Even with men, if you can illustrate that women driving will somehow make their lives better or easier, they think ‘oh, this is good’ and then eventually they even become proud of their wife’s new achievements.
“I’ve seen it happen in other countries. This is how small changes lead to big changes. Step by step.”
Blair added that “leadership is lacking in the world.”
“A diverse range of leadership is very important because the problems we see in the world are just people repeating the same mistakes; people are very frightened about taking a chance,” she said.
The QC and philanthropist bemoaned the fact that just 10 percent of the world’s leaders are female. “It matters because it gives people an image of what a leader looks like,” she said. “When women see other women leading, then we start seeing visible changes and we allow that vision to manifest in women.”
Speaking at the same event, Patrick Basham, head of the Washington-based Democracy Institute think tank told Arab News, “The Saudi economy will benefit from literally empowering women in a physical sense because women will be more mobile in all kinds of ways.
“The rest of world sees this as a small step, a tangible one, but it’s a good example of how you don’t have to change the whole of society overnight. If it’s perceived, particularly by Saudi men, as not having brought the roof down they will be relieved and then it’s a question of ‘what’s the next step?”
Basham said one of the first “small steps” would be allowing women to have more of a voice so that their participation “if not encouraged, is at least accepted, so that the repression of Saudi women will be viewed as something from yesterday but not necessarily of tomorrow.”
A host of thinkers, experts, professionals, and world leaders are gathering for a two-day forum at Sveti Stefan on Oct. 19 and 20 to discuss “Global Citizenship in the Age of Uncertainty.”
The forum was established by businessman and philanthropist Armand Arton in 2012 to advocate for a better understanding of global citizenship, to promote discussion around issues of global significance, and to drive philanthropic activities.


King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed ‘lend new dimension to unification’

Millions of citizens plan to celebrate the Saudi national day on Sunday. (SPA)
Updated 21 min 56 sec ago
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King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed ‘lend new dimension to unification’

  • More than 900,000 fireworks will light up the sky from 58 locations across the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Day, celebrated every year on Sept. 23, has come a long way in broadening the concept of unification over the years.
Though the National Day meant unifying disparate sheikhdoms under the nation’s founder, the late King Abdul Aziz, its implications across the political, socioeconomic and cultural spectrum have not been lost on successive rulers.
It was King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who fine-tuned the definition of unification as an operating philosophy. This is why millions of citizens plan to celebrate the Saudi National Day on the streets on Sunday.
The capital city, along with other Saudi cities, will witness fireworks and the unfurling of the largest national flag. More than 900,000 fireworks will light up the sky from 58 locations across the Kingdom.
Car owners, limousine drivers and young Saudi motorcyclists said that they planned to go for drives, particularly on the fashionable streets of the capital city, to celebrate. Grocery shops, stationery shops and vendors were selling bunting, flags, banners and pictures of national heroes.
“We went around the city to see the lighting and fireworks,” said Saleh Al-Omri, a local pharmacist. “Green and white balloons fill either sides of Riyadh streets,” he said.
In his National Day congratulatory message, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Sheikh, Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, said: “The wise policy of the leaders of this country contributed to peace, security and stability.”
Fakhr Al-Shawaf, chief executive of Al-Bawani Contracting Co., said: “We are celebrating the 88th anniversary of our unification, a day when the late King Abdul Aziz established the Saudi nation.”
Ali Al-Othaim, a member of Riyadh Chamber’s board of directors, said: “The Kingdom is on the path of comprehensive economic and social development under Vision 2030.”
Shafik Namdar, a taxi driver, said that he had bought an SR10 flag for his car and planned to work and also drive with his friends to look at the city and its landmark buildings.
Several young boys, including Arslan, 12, and Mishal, 14, said that they had bought bunting, badges and flags to decorate their houses. They planned to celebrate with a special meal at home with relatives, before going into the city streets for dance and music. Some of them had plans to organize celebrations in public parks.