A shared vision built on hope and equality

A shared vision built on hope and equality

All sorts of discoveries are occurring in areas that we thought we knew everything about a long time ago. Within the pyramids of Egypt, constructed almost 5,000 years ago, we are only just discovering new areas and intriguing empty spaces. In Indonesia, a new species of orangutan has been discovered, the first new great ape species in almost a century. And in Saudi Arabia, we are rediscovering something we have also known for some time — that women are equal to men as a force for progress and development in society.
For some people in our country, there was a belief that a woman’s role was with her children and that, while the man was usually out, she was simply in. Now we are realizing and showing that women and men can both be in and out. Like women’s right to drive, once the step is taken, it seems immediately normal, as though it were always this way. Saudi Arabia is a stronger society as a result.
On the front page of Arab News the other day, I came across another inspiring story of a Saudi woman. Hajjar Al-Naim, who graduated from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television this year, is already presenting a film at the Dubai International Film Festival next month. While no one around her even considered the idea of a Saudi woman becoming a film director, she put her all into it, and, with great perseverance and the help of her family, she succeeded.
Every woman and man in our country is seeing options open up and a new horizon of opportunities. Equally instructive is that Al-Naim’s first film that seeks to dispel the distorted image in the West of Islam and of veiled women, contributing to her own society and to other people’s understanding of it. This is the energy of change, of constructive transformation. Everyone has their piece to contribute; women are driving the headlines in our country, and equality and shared hope are a truth we really knew all along.
In mathematics, we have plus and minus; in physics, we have elements charged positively or negatively. The connotations we give to plus or minus are arbitrary, for both elements are essential, they are both constructive and sources of energy. This is the energy that we are releasing in our society, by having plus and minus contribute their strength to a greater whole — we need both. In fact, it is no longer about woman and man, it is simply about human beings who all have their essential contribution to make to their families, their society and their country. 
A woman still bears children and is essential in their upbringing, but a man has an equally important role in raising his children. In every area, we each have our role to play, sometimes additional, sometimes complementary, but always adding up to a combined force of progress and applying our shared values. If there was one thing to remark about our recent Future Investment Initiative conference, it is that more than being about financial investment in our future, it was about human investment in our future, with women already playing a key role, and that role being self-evident rather than a source of controversy. This is our true joint venture for the future.

Women are equal to men as a force for progress and development in society, and Saudi Arabia is stronger as a result.

Hassan bin Youssef Yassin

One of the reasons this transformation of our society feels so natural is that we are simply implementing what is normal. We have our vision of the future and we are putting the pieces in place to achieve it. We are not bogged down in Congressional objections, filibusters and political infighting. Where there may have been an issue of women before, today it is simply vanishing. Women will drive, they will continue to rise to the top of all professions, and they will contribute what they can to our country and our future. We are energised, we are bringing solutions and integration for a hopeful future, not fighting about what that should mean. Indeed, we did miss the role of women in the past, and it took us time to re-evaluate our direction and society, but we are now arriving without impediment. The new energies are already coming to the fore, and we Saudi Arabians are proud of what we have, for we all knew the strengths and equal potential of our mothers, wives and sisters. 
I am happy today to say that there is no issue of woman or man, that the future of our country is simply about human beings, about the energies and contributions each of us can make.
In today’s Saudi Arabia, we carry a shared responsibility to see our families, our society and our country succeed and flourish. Bringing together plus and minus is a tremendous source of energy, so much so that there is no need to think in terms of plus and minus any more, simply their combined force. Dreaming is not good enough, for there is a disconnect between sleeping, waking and doing. In Saudi Arabia today we are quite simply awake and realizing a shared vision built on hope and equality.
• Hassan bin Youssef Yassin worked closely with Saudi petroleum ministers Abdullah Tariki and Ahmed Zaki Yamani from 1959 to 1967. He headed the Saudi Information Office in Washington from 1972 to 1981, and served with the Arab League observer delegation to the UN from 1981 to 1983.
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