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

Cherie Blair
Updated 20 October 2017

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.

DiplomaticQuarter: British consulate in Jeddah marks Queen’s birthday

Foreign Ministry official Jamal Balkhaior joins British Ambassador Simon Collis and Consul General Barrie Peach to cut the cake in Jeddah on Monday. (AN photo)
Updated 26 April 2018

DiplomaticQuarter: British consulate in Jeddah marks Queen’s birthday

  • The theme of the evening was 'Women in society'
  • Ot is worth mentioning that Saudi Arabia this year was also very important for women as many important developments have accrued thanks to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: Collis

JEDDAH: The 92nd birthday of Queen Elizabeth II was celebrated at the British Consulate on Monday.

The theme of the evening was “Women in society” as the UK was also celebrating the 100th anniversary of women being given the right to vote. Also on Monday, a son was born to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. 

The celebration included the attendance of a number of the diplomatic corps, including the head of Makkah branch of the Foreign Ministry, Jamal Balkhaior. 

The British ambassador to Saudi Arabia in Riyadh, Simon Collis, and the consul general of Britain in Jeddah, Barrie Peach, delivered a welcoming speech to the guests.

Collis said: “This year in most British councils and embassies around the world we celebrate under the theme ‘Women in Society,’ and it is worth mentioning that Saudi Arabia this year was also very important for women as many important developments have accrued thanks to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

“We are waiting for women to be able to drive,” said Collis, “but what is more important is the growing opportunity of employing Saudi women in different sectors, and I am glad to say that the British government is providing support in this crucial work as we in Britain consider the Vision 2030 a new historical stage.”

Peach told Arab News: “This year has been a very important one in the bilateral relationship between our two Kingdoms as we recently had the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the UK, where he met the Queen.”

“We signed a strategic partnership with the Kingdom which will see the establishment of a strategic partnership council which essentially says that the UK is very happy and willing to support Saudi Arabia as it seeks to implement all aspects of Vision 2030, and we have a whole range of projects that seek to help Saudi Arabia as you build capacity in a whole range of sectors,” he added.