Saudi Vision 2030 is positive move in global campaign: UK envoy for gender equality

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Updated 21 March 2018

Saudi Vision 2030 is positive move in global campaign: UK envoy for gender equality

RIYADH: Women and men working together will drive social and economic change, Joanna Roper, the UK Foreign Office’s Special Envoy for Gender Equality, said in an exclusive interview with Arab News during the Women’s Economic Forum that opened in Riyadh on Monday.
"We talked earlier at the forum about working with men who are our allies and champions, and only together can we really see a change," Roper said.
"I think the changes we are seeing in Saudi Arabia with Vision 2030 are a positive move. I met a few of the delegation on the crown prince’s visit to London. That was my first encounter with Saudi men and women who are looking to change the economy. To bring more women in, and I think this is really positive."
Roper said that the UK was a firm supporter of Saudi Arabia "in whatever way it can be."
She said the UK's foreign secretary had made girls’ education a priority and this was an area of shared interest.
"In terms of specific things we are doing in cooperation with Saudi Arabia, with the British Council and in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, is the training of PE teachers for girls, so this is where international cooperation really comes in. Also, in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), there has been cooperation across the border, in supporting women in STEM and helping them become female STEM leaders. That’s something that we are all very passionate about in the UK Foreign Office."
Roper said that many families already recognized the value of education for boys and girls. "If we can build on that and continue to talk about the real value and benefit of education, then the case makes itself."
Roper, who took up her role in April last year, said she saw her job as supporting and helping the British government in its gender equality work. "For example, the Foreign Office has a whole lot of work for, let’s say, women’s peace and security, and international development. They do a lot on our program work: education, economic empowerment, political participation as well.
"What I try to do is support all their work when we are talking to partners overseas. My job is not to tell people what to do, it’s about where can we find a way to work together.

Give your heart to everything you do, Duchess of York tells Misk Global Forum

Updated 20 min 58 sec ago

Give your heart to everything you do, Duchess of York tells Misk Global Forum

  • Sarah Ferguson delighted by warm welcome in Riyadh during Misk Global Forum
  • Ferguson shared her experiences of working to help children worldwide during a panel discussion at the Misk Global Forum

RIYADH: Sarah Ferguson, Britain’s Duchess of York, said that she was moved by the warm welcome she has received from the people of Saudi Arabia. She added that it was a reflection of the good example set by the country’s rulers.

Fergie, as she is known worldwide, said she was excited and thrilled to visit the Kingdom to appear at the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh.

“I love the feeling of kindness that I’m getting from the people of Saudi Arabia,” she told Arab News on Wednesday which, appropriately, was International Kindness Day. “Everyone has been so nice here in Riyadh; I think that comes from good leadership.”

She compared this wonderful reception to her experiences in other places “where people are judgmental of you,” adding: “I don’t feel that here. I feel people are embracing me as ‘Sarah’ and that is such a beautiful feeling.”

The duchess said that she hoped to return to Saudi Arabia to help the government build health centers in less-developed areas. But she admitted that it can be tough sometimes to keep going.

“We are all human and have human failings, so the best we can do is keep battling on,” she said. “It’s hard not to beat yourself up sometimes, if you’re feeling down or upset.”

Ferguson revealed that her inspiration is her daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, and that she has always tried her best to be a “great mum,” urging them to “learn from my actions rather than my words.”

She added: “If your actions are of honesty and kindness and you unintentionally trip up on the way” people are likely to see you are good-hearted.

The duchess was open about her own bad decisions which, she said, happened because she believed everyone thought the way she did.

“They didn’t, and I didn’t realize that,” she said. Despite past betrayals, she said still trusts and believes in people, and has passed on the lessons she learned the hard way to her children: “I have taught my daughters not to fall into those traps.”

In the past, she said, some people in Britain might have viewed her philanthropic work as “attention seeking,” but did not let that divert her from a path of kindness and a desire to do good.

The duchess later hosted a showcase of her retail brand, which includes room infusers, flavored teas, and jewelry. She said all profits from the jewelry sales will be used to help children through a trust she founded in partnership with the charity Humanitas.

Ferguson was invited to attend the Misk forum by Badr Al-Asakir, head of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s private office. The prince is chairman of the Misk Initiative Center.

During a panel discussion on Tuesday titled “The Resilient Philanthropreneur,” the duchess shared her experiences of working to help children worldwide, and the resilience and persistence it had required.

“Don’t let anyone doubt you and, especially, don’t doubt yourself,” she said, encouraging people to keep an “open mind” and pursue the path they believe is right.

“Give your heart to everything you do,” was her parting advice to young people.