Saudi women rev up to take the driving seat at leadership forum

Allowing women to drive is expected to have a positive impact on the Saudi economy. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 June 2018
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Saudi women rev up to take the driving seat at leadership forum

  • The event follows two earlier Women in Leadership forums held in Riyadh and Alkhobar in March
  • YouTube star: most important thing Saudi women needed was not to feel pressured

Potential women leaders who met at a leadership forum in Jeddah heard rousing words from female role models who had already made it.

As the long-anticipated day when Saudi women will be allowed to drive approaches in June, the third Women in Leadership forum, organized by Abdul Latif Jameel Company, took place in Jeddah on Wednesday, at the Hussein Jameel conference hall. 

The event follows two earlier Women in Leadership forums held in Riyadh and Alkhobar in March.

The forum gathers Saudi female business leaders, decision-makers, and women who have achieved success to share their experiences and support other women to be effective leaders.

Guest speakers at the forum who shared their experiences included Njlaa Sifder, the president of Nafisa Shams Academy set up to train and empower women, Hisham Lari, general director of ride-hailing company Careem, Fatimah Batook, owner of Studio 55 gym, and Al-Anoud Yamani, professional make-up artist and trainer.

The host of the event Hatoon Qadhi, Saudi YouTube star, assistant professor and columnist, told Arab News: “Women in leadership is not a new topic, it has never disappeared, but it is now reviving again since women are to drive soon, so the event is gathering both women driving and women in leadership in all fields.”

Qadhi said that the most important thing Saudi women needed was not to feel pressured. 

“I can see a lot of pressure imposed on Saudi woman by media. There is a general feeling that is pushing women to believe that they have to do something special. However, what we always wanted and called for is that women should have a wider range of opportunities.

“Women should not get questioned about their own decisions and choices; she should not be asked to leave her comfort zone and do something she does not want to do. Real empowerment of women is to let them choose what pleases them for themselves.”

Fatimah Batook told Arab News: “Women were always in the driving seat, she was not physically driving, but she was leading her own life, and her family’s. She is a superwoman because no matter how little she had, she would always find a way to achieve what she aspires to.”

Batook added: “The Saudi woman needs to be bold, ready to take the first step, because there are so many fields that women do not exist in, and they need to prove themselves. She needs the courage and awareness of herself, who is she, where she belongs, and what values she was brought up with.”

One of the forum guests, Fatimah Al-Maghrabi, 45, told Arab News: “I came here with my daughters, I have enjoyed listening to the speakers and, I am truly excited to drive soon.”

Ibtihal Abdulrahman, 29, another forum guest, said: “As a social worker and a coach, I like to engage in activities and events taking place in my environment, especially when it is about driving.

“I strongly believe that women have the right to be independent and own and control their vehicles to be able to fulfill their own needs.

“I am excited to learn how to drive ... I believe it is a basic skill we all need to have.” 


Arab coalition working to protect region’s security, says spokesman

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki at a press briefing. (SPA file photo)
Updated 19 March 2019
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Arab coalition working to protect region’s security, says spokesman

  • Houthis want to disturb peace, says coalition spokesman
  • Stockholm peace agreement under strain

RIYADH: The Arab coalition supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government is committed to protecting regional and global security, a spokesman said Monday.

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki was asked at a press briefing about Houthi militias threatening to target the capitals of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“This is their way to disturb peace,” Al-Maliki replied. “Previously the Houthis targeted Riyadh with a ballistic missile, violating all international laws by attacking a city that has more than 8 million civilians. We take all precautions to protect civilians and vital areas. The coalition works to protect regional and international security.”

Al-Maliki said Houthis had targeted Saudi border towns several times, the most recent incident taking place in Abha last Friday.

But the Saudi Royal Air Defense Force had shot down a drone that was targeting civilians, he added.

He said four Saudi nationals and an Indian expatriate were injured in the attack because of falling debris.

The drone wreckage showed the characteristics and specifications of Iranian manufacturing, he said, which proved Iran was continuing to smuggle arms to the militias.

He warned the Houthis to refrain from targeting civilians because the coalition, in line with international humanitarian law, had every right to counter such threats.

He said the coalition was making efforts to neutralize ballistic missiles and dismantle their capabilities, as the coalition’s joint command would not allow the militia to possess weapons that threatened civilian lives and peace.

Al-Maliki reiterated that the Houthis were targeting Yemeni civilians and continued to violate international laws. 

He also urged Yemenis to try their best to prevent children from being captured by Houthis, who were using them as human shields and child soldiers.

His comments came as the UN tried to salvage a peace deal that was seen as crucial for ending the country’s four-year war.

The Stockholm Agreement was signed by the Yemeni government and Houthi representatives last December.

The main points of the agreement were a prisoner exchange, steps toward a cease-fire in the city of Taiz, and a cease-fire agreement in the city of Hodeidah and its port, as well as ports in Salif and Ras Issa.

Militants triggered the conflict when they seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and attempted to occupy large parts of the country. An Arab coalition intervened in support of the internationally recognized government in March 2015.

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since 2015.

Earlier this month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that President Donald Trump’s administration opposed curbs on American assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

“The way to alleviate the Yemeni people’s suffering isn’t to prolong the conflict by handicapping our partners in the fight, but by giving the Saudi-led coalition the support needed to defeat the Iranian-backed rebels and ensure a just peace,” Pompeo said at a news conference in Washington.