Arab News to become first Saudi ‘gender-balanced’ newspaper by 2020 

Saudi media personality Muna AbuSulayman, center, with Arab News staff, from left, Huda Bashatah, Deema Al-Khudair, Lulwa Shalhoub Ana and Aseel Bashraheel. (AN photo: Ghazi Mehdi)
Updated 20 April 2018
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Arab News to become first Saudi ‘gender-balanced’ newspaper by 2020 

  • Initiative announced at KAEC women forum is in line with Kingdom’s reform plans
  • Drive will include active training and recruitment, and progress reports will be published

JEDDAH: Arab News will become the first newspaper in Saudi Arabia to have a gender-balanced newsroom — and it intends to achieve this goal in less than two years.

The announcement was made at the opening on Tuesday of the inaugural Arab Women Forum at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC). 

Representing Arab News editor in chief Faisal J. Abbas, who is in France covering the visit by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi media personality  Muna AbuSulayman told the audience: “On behalf of Arab News I would like to officially announce its ambitious plan to have a 50-50 gender-balanced newsroom by the year 2020.” The announcement included a recorded video message from Abbas. 

In a statement, Arab News said the gender-balanced newsroom drive — which is referred to internally as the “50:50 by 2020” initiative — will aim to cover all the newspaper’s bureaus and areas of operations. It will involve active recruitment, training and career guidance which the paper — with the help of its publisher, the Saudi Research and Marketing Group — will provide. 

“This initiative is in line with the Kingdom’s reform plans and, as such, we are keen to ensure it succeeds, so we will make sure we announce progress reports regularly,” the statement said. 

The Arab Women Forum was organized by the Dubai publishing and events company Mediaquest. It was held in partnership with Arab News and was attended by a large number of local and visiting dignitaries, diplomats, journalists and business executives.


News anchors join New Zealand women wearing headscarves for mosque attack victims

Updated 22 March 2019
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News anchors join New Zealand women wearing headscarves for mosque attack victims

  • The AM Show news anchor Amanda Gillies said the gesture 'shows we are united'
  • Newsreaders began broadcasts with Islamic greetings

CHRISTCHURCH: News anchors in New Zealand joined women across the country in wearing headscarves as a show of solidarity on Friday for the victims of last week’s mosques shooting. 

The newsreaders covering the memorial events for the 50 people killed by a white supremacist at two mosques in Christchurch, began broadcasts with Islamic greetings.

They included The AM Show news anchor Amanda Gillies, who said she agonized over whether to cover her hair with a peach-colored scarf.

"There's no way a week ago that I would have, because I would have thought it would have been deemed inappropriate, not right, that I was insulting the Muslim community," Gillies said.

"I'll be honest - I did angst over it today whether I should wear it, because I didn't want to be inappropriate or offend the Muslim community. But I know that they are so welcoming and accepting of it, and I know that a lot of women will wear it today because it just shows that we are united - the solidarity is there, the love and support is there."

Elsewhere, women across the country wore hijabs on an emotional day when the shocked  nation came together to remember those killed.

 A journalist wearing a headscarf as tribute to the victims of the mosque attacks uses her phone before Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 22, 2019. (Reuters)

Rafaela Stoakes, a 32-year-old mother of two, said wearing the Islamic head covering gave her an insight into what it means to stand out and feel part of the minority.

On Friday morning she covered all but a few locks of her dark chestnut-coloured hair in a loose red and white scarf, crossed neatly beneath her chin and tucked into a black hiking jacket.

She was one of many women embracing #HeadScarfforHarmony, to make a stand against the hate espoused by the Australian man who killed dozens of worshippers.

Headscarves were also worn as a mark of respect by policewomen and non-Muslim volunteers directing the crowds around the site in Christchurch holding communal prayers on Friday.

Many were wearing a headscarf for the first time.

"It is amazing how different I felt for the short time I was out this morning," Stoakes told AFP.

"There were a lot of confused looks and some slightly aggressive ones," she said.

"I did feel a sense of pride to honour my Muslim friends, but I also felt very vulnerable and alone as I was the only person wearing one."

"It must take a lot of courage to do this on a daily basis."

The gesture caught on nationwide -- in offices, schools and on the streets -- as well as at the ceremonies held in Christchurch to mark one week since the killings at the hands of a self-avowed white supremacist.

Women flooded Twitter, Facebook and other social media -- which played a key role in allowing the gunman to spread his message -- with their images.

Kate Mills Workman, a 19-year-old student from Wellington, posted a selfie on Twitter wearing a green headscarf.

"If I could I would be attending the mosque and standing outside to show my support for my Muslim whanau but I've got lectures and I can't really skip them," she told AFP, using a Maori language term for extended family.

"Obviously this is all spurred on by the terrible tragedy in Christchurch, but it's also a way of showing that any form of harassment or bigotry based on a symbol of religion is never okay," she added.

"As New Zealanders, we have to make a really strong stand."

Although the headscarf has been the subject of contentious debate over gender rights in the Islamic world, for Stoakes the day has been a lesson in how pious Muslim women often do not have the option to melt away into the background when they feel vulnerable.

"We can nod and pretend to agree with people who we are afraid of, or plead ignorance if we feel in danger of confrontation," she said.

"But a Muslim is just right out there. Like a bullseye. Their hijabs and clothing speak before they do."