FROM time to time we hear about an achievement by a Saudi woman. We see these achievements mainly in hospitals and schools. But when Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah approved women participation in the next municipal elections, many people thought the women participation in the social and political decision-making is something new to the Kingdom. Saudi women have contributed to the political, social and economical development more than what many people think. Saudi Arabia had women who were decision makers since the 19th century. At present time, talents of the Saudi women are underutilized. Saudi women have matched Saudi men’s achievements in medicine. There are a lot of women who have leadership abilities which will make them good candidates for any positions in the government or private sector. Today, the number of Saudi women is more than the number of men in some areas of the Kingdom. Saudi society is very protective of women and there is a great need in the Kingdom to have a ministry for women affairs and their well being. And it is important to have a woman minister for this post. But, is the Saudi woman or the Saudi society ready to have a woman minister? Let us talk about the achievements of a very small number of Saudi women.
According to the history of women in Saudi Arabia, Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman Al-Saud was the most popular, charismatic and influential woman not only in the Kingdom, but also in the Gulf area. Some of her advices had very big impact on the history of the area.
Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman Al-Saud was born in the year 1875. She was sister of King Abdulaziz Al-Saud, who founded modern Saudi Arabia in 1932. She was one year older then the king and from an early age she had shown great talent. She was very charming lady and was a woman of wisdom. She was one of the first known women in the world to be addressed by a great figure when introducing himself or showing his status. King Abdulaziz was proud to say that he is the brother of Noura. King Abdulaziz introduced himself as the brother of Noura on many occasions when a challenging decision was made. In the Arab culture, this is the highest form of respect a man can show toward a woman (sister). Princess Noura was the most influential woman in the history of Saudi Arabia. Historians say it is her wisdom and far sightedness that shaped many of the historical events in Saudi Arabia. She was a problem solver in the Saudi royal family circle and outside the circle. She initiated the first charity program for the poor and orphans. Dame Violet Dickson from Britain who lived in Kuwait noted that Princess Noura was the most charismatic and an important personality the Arabian Gulf region at the time. Dame Dickson met the princess in 1937. Princess Noura was one of the most progressive and outspoken women at that time. Many Western scholars considered her as the Saudi first lady in a country ruled by kings. Many old Saudis in the past called her, the woman who has the brain of forty men. Princes Noura passed away in 1950. Princess Noura wasn’t only a qualified Cabinet Minister. She was a top class political and strategic thinker.
In later years, we saw Princess Efa’at, wife of King Faisal bin Abdulaziz. She was the one who introduced modern education for the Saudi women. Today, we see many women form the Saudi royal family who are very active in the Saudi social life and are helping the Saudi women seek higher education and pursue a career. In the Eastern Province we see Princess Jawaher bint Naif bin Abdulaziz. In the Qassim province, there is Princess Noura bint Mohammed bin Saud. In Jeddah, we see Princess Lolawah bint Faisal bin Abdulaziz. Also there is super active Princess Adelah bint Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. Those royals and many others have contributed a great deal to the Saudi society without talking about it. They helped the Saudi women achieve many of their goals. All of those royals and many others are very active in the social life in the Kingdom. And there are many more who are not members of the Saudi royal family.
In the government sector, we saw Noura Al-Fayez becoming the first Saudi deputy minister. She is the No. 2 in the Ministry of Education. She had a challenging track record. And in the private sector, we have Lubna Al-Olayan who is very well known all over the world. She is a board member in many international companies. And she is considered one of the best company CEOs in the Kingdom.
Some Saudi women have shown many talents even when working abroad. Just few weeks ago, I had the honor to meet one of the most talented Saudi young women working in the United States. She is one of the active members at the Saudi Cultural mission in the United States. And very recently she was assigned as the assistant attaché for Cultural and Social Affairs. In addition to her job, she is the editor in chief of the Almubtaath magazine in the state of Virginia. Dr. Modi Al-Khalaf has a Ph.D. in applied linguistic. Dr. Mody use to write columns for this paper till 2008. Her duties at the attaché include taking care of the well being of tens of thousands of students and their families. There are many other women who have served the country in many aspects. The Saudi women are more energetic, more open and more educated than what many people think, but they let their achievements speak on their behalf.
— This article is exclusive to Arab News.