Saudi women’s voices in Shoura Council continue to be heard

Saudi women in the Shoura Council have come a long way. (SPA)
Updated 08 March 2018

Saudi women’s voices in Shoura Council continue to be heard

JEDDAH: It was a year to remember for many Saudis. For the first time in history, 30 Saudi women took their seats as members of the Shoura Council in February 2013, and were sworn in before the presence of the late King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.
Five years on, female Shoura Council members are still playing a major role in different issues concerning social development in the Kingdom.
Saudi women in the Shoura Council have come a long way. Their achievements have been recorded in history and their powerful voices continue to be heard.
None of the women needs introduction, with each having a long history of achievements even before their appointment.
Lina Al-Maeena spent more than 15 years leading a fight for women’s sports in Saudi Arabia. She founded Jeddah United in 2003, Saudi Arabia’s first private female basketball club.
Despite facing a backlash, she pushed for acceptance in the conservative community and has finally won recognition with the realization that it is important for women to participate in sports activities.
In compliance with Vision 2030 — which includes development programs preparing the Kingdom for a promising future — the Saudi government has committed to elevating the status of sports in the Kingdom, a boost to promoting physical fitness for both men and women alike.
But promoting sports activities for Saudi women is not Al-Maeena’s only goal.
“It’s not simply about the empowerment of women in sports from an athletic point of view, I’m also looking at it from an economic perspective,” she said.
“Sports as a business is in line with the goal of Vision 2030 — to increase the number of women in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent. It’s not just the health, social benefits and development aspects, I’m very big on economics too.”
“When it comes to women's empowerment, I like to look at a gender as a whole, not just women,” adds Al-Maeena. “I advocate under the Shoura Council dome, for many environmental issues. Saudi Arabia is a member of the G-20 and we have a global responsibility to become supporters of a green lifestyle to sustain effective development.”
“It’s a golden age for Saudis and as women, we’ve come a long way. Every other day you see things happening and it’s a great celebration of achievements. We’re living this era of historical change, both pre- and post-Vision 2030 and we’re making up for lost time,” said Al-Maeena.
Fawzia Abalkhail, a professor of Information Technology and Education at Princess Noura hUniversity (PNU) who has a doctorate in the philosophy of education, is one of 20 new female Shoura members appointed in 2016.
She believes that every member of the Shoura Council has a national responsibility entrusted to them by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques by virtue of his appointment.
“As a female Shoura Council member, I support development issues in the education sector, health sector, public services and social affairs … [and in doing so] to support many fellow members in women empowerment issues,” said Abalkhail, appointed in 2013-2014 as the undersecretary of PNU for Graduate Studies and Scientific Research and vice president of PNU for health affairs.
“We focus on finding means of support and setting the standards that will increase women’s contributions in matters of social development, provide greater chances for assuming higher governmental positions as well as managerial roles in the private sector,” she said.
Abalkhail is of the opinion that Saudi women must gain skills in various fields in order to contribute. She believes a woman plays a pivotal role in society to ensure its stability and structural health, a role that is no less than a man’s.
“I am keen on laying the foundations and the right means in which all women can acquire the knowledge they need to enrich their social contributions,” said Abalkhail, who is also a member of the Saudi Society for Education and Psychological Sciences.
“Women are required to be their own self-development researchers. I am very interested in making sure education is improved, facilitate it and widen the scope beyond academic constraints. In doing so, a wider range of knowledge exchange will be provided between all those who seek it to build healthier social practices.”
Education has played a major role in empowering women in Saudi Arabia for many years.
Dr. Alia Aldahlawi, an associate professor at the Department of Biology-Organisms in the Faculty of Sciences at King Abdul Aziz University, agreed that education was key to ensuring women qualified for senior positions.
“The Kingdom’s scholarship programs have sent countless of women and men alike to get an equally challenging education and thus return to hold positions they’re most qualified for. Society must place their trust, reverse their mindsets to empower our women,” she said. “It’s also important that women realize that it is essential they work harder and prove themselves to the naysayers.”
“To my knowledge, there are approximately 1,000 Saudi women professors with different scientific occupations in many universities of the Kingdom,” Aldahlawi said.
“They’ve held high administrative positions with years of experience. We see female diplomats employed in the Saudi Foreign Ministry, researchers and inventors in the health sector, economic and business experts and so much more.
“They are pioneers of their fields and their abilities are an asset to the Kingdom that must be utilized.”

Local designers to share the spotlight during second Saudi Fashion Week

Updated 20 September 2018

Local designers to share the spotlight during second Saudi Fashion Week

  • Riyadh will be the hub of Saudi Fashion Week
  • The Grazia Middle East Style Awards will this year take place in Riyadh

RIYADH: Emerging Saudi fashion designers will get a chance to showcase their work alongside internationally renowned peers — including Yahya Couture, Yuliya Yanina and Lama Askari — during the second edition of Saudi Fashion Week, which runs from October 21 to 25, 2018.

The dates were revealed by the event’s founder, Princess Noura bint Faisal Al-Saud, who made a statement with her choice of outfit for the official announcement: a black abaya with a traditional Saudi hand embroidered, red design.

The princess, who is the founder of Saudi fashion community and Saudi Fashion Week in Saudi Arabia, said she always dreamed of being part of the fashion industry and is working hard to help the dreams of others come true as well, by supporting local designers,providing them with a platform on which to showcase their creativity, and supplying them with the tools they need to succeed.

“This fashion week is sponsored by the GCA and we want to highlight our Saudi culture,” she said when asked how the second edition will differ from the inaugural event in April 2018. “Every designer is unique and designs in a different way. Our culture is not only about wearing an abaya; it’s what makes you comfortable as a person.

“We have more local names coming out and a program to support emerging designers. This is a platform with which we support Saudi designers, in their country, which they represent.”

However, it also embraces the wider international fashion industry, as well.

“it’s an exchange of cultures. It’s a platform for Saudi and other countries,” said Princess Noura. “When we speak about fashion, it’s a mirror that reflects our culture and modernity.”

To help launch the careers of Saudis who are just starting out in the fashion industry, a “Top emerging Saudi designers” program has been developed, and the country’s fashion community has chosen six designers to participate, some of whom are recentcollege graduates. It will offer them support and give them real-world experience of the fashion industry.

Riyadh will be the hub of Saudi Fashion Week, with three runway shows each day, beginning at 8pm. In addition, a fashion festival featuring pop-up stores will run throughout the event. The Grazia Middle East Style Awards, which is usually held in Dubai, will this year take place in Riyadh on the final day of Saudi Fashion Week.

“I want every designer in Saudi Arabia to not be afraid and to come out and show what they are made of. Be Brave,” added Princess Noura.