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‘Strong and ambitious’ Saudi women crucial to transforming the Kingdom

Hoda Al-Helaissi speaking on International Women’s Day at the RUSI think tank in London. (RUSI)
LONDON: Empowering women is “crucial’’ to transforming Saudi Arabia into “a country that can compete globally on different levels,’’ Hoda Al-Helaissi, a member of the Shoura Council, said.
Speaking on International Women’s Day, she listed the rapid-fire reforms that are widening women’s roles in the Kingdom, but voiced frustration that international perceptions of Saudi women are still as “oppressed, subservient to and suffocated by men, uneducated, not allowed to work and inferior to her partner.’’
She said at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a UK think tank: “The stereotype of the Saudi woman is far from the truth. The Saudi woman has revealed herself to be a strong and ambitious individual, influencing and participating positively in society.’’
Describing the tendency in the west to blur the ’fine line’’ between religion and tradition, she emphasised that “it is not Islam that hinders progression of women.’’
“Much of what is seen by the west as being backwards and oppressive to women is based on traditions,’’ Al-Helaissi explained.
Describing women as vital in realising Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitions for the Kingdom, she said: “A country’s true development can only come about... when it uses 100 percent of its human resources, male and female.’’
The make-up of Saudi society is shifting, she continued, paving the way for women to play a more active role in creating the country’s future.
Saudi Arabia is changing at a rate that “few countries have seen before ... but this change “must come from within’’ and not be imposed from outside, she added.

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