My image of Saudi women was so wrong, says Italian journalist

Updated 12 April 2018

My image of Saudi women was so wrong, says Italian journalist

  • Allegra Salvadori says her preconceived ideas about Saudi were changed as she watched the views from the car
  • Gender inequality is real says Salvadori, in pay, in jobs - but it's a global issue

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia: When Allegra Salvadori stepped off a plane at 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning from Dubai to Jeddah, she had no clue her entire perception of Saudi women would be changed at the Arab Women Forum.
The Italian journalist and Italian Senate candidate told Arab News she could have slept for an hour on the way to King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in Rabigh, but said she experienced the jitters at the prospect of coming to Saudi Arabia for the first time.
“I had been given the wrong image of Arab women, which had been portrayed by the media – it was the wrong concept and a misrepresentation, especially in Saudi Arabia,” she explained.
“Instead, it’s very nice to come in person to witness that things are different. I’m only here for a day but it’s a very rich day because I’ve had an opportunity to talk to clever women that stand out, who’ve created opportunities for themselves and know exactly what they want and know that there’s a vision to what they want to achieve.”
Salvadori admits the gap, whether in gender equality or salary equality, is a global issue, and it exists in Italy as well, whether in poor political representation and women’s roles. It is only being discussed more in Saudi Arabia because it is a country that is undergoing major changes, making it more evident.
There is not one right way to solve it either, Salvadori said. “The problem is the same worldwide, but countries approach it differently.”
As an experienced woman in the field of journalism, having written for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera and Huffington Post, she advises Saudi women who are boarding the male-dominated media train to remain truthful.
“Things are always changing, so never follow what’s already been said. Witness the change. Be the change. Sometimes, there are restrictions, dangers, and things that can’t be told or written, and it’s the same all over the world, but always follow your instinct.
“As journalists, we are informing people and if we tell it in the wrong way then we’re creating a vicious circle and affecting culture.”

  • Allegra Salvadori spoke at the Arab Women Forum on Tuesday about Political Representation; she is a senate candidate of the Italian Republic in Africa, Asia and Australia, and represents over 270,000 of her people in these continents.


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

Updated 22 March 2019

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."