Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

The end of the driving ban is expected to help bring an economic windfall for Saudi women. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 June 2018

Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

  • The historic move is a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Saudi Arabia, says businesswoman
  • A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market

The end of the driving ban will boost women’s financial power and allow them to play a bigger role in economic and social diversification in line with Vision 2030, prominent businesswomen said on Friday.

Hind Khalid Al-Zahid was the first Saudi woman designated as an executive director — for Dammam Airport Company — and also heads the Businesswomen Center at the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

She sees the historic move as a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Kingdom.

“Women being allowed to drive is very important; of course this will help a lot in sustainable development as the lifting of the ban on women driving came as a wonderful opportunity to increase women’s participation in the workforce,” she told Arab News on Friday, ahead of the end of the ban on Sunday.

She added that women in the job market are under-represented; they make up to 22 percent of the national workforce of about six million according to official estimates. Lifting the ban will help to take women’s representation in the workforce to 30 percent by 2030, she said.

“This is not just the right thing to do for women’s emancipation, but also an essential step in economic and social development as part of the reforms,” she said.

She said that there were different obstacles in increasing women’s participation in the workforce and other productive activities, and the driving ban was one of them. It was a strategic issue that needed to be addressed on a priority basis. With the issue resolved, it would help immensely in giving Saudi women better representation as they would help to diversify the Saudi economy and society.

She said that women could contribute hugely to the workforce and labor market as half of Saudi human resources were female, and unless allowed to excel in different sectors it would not be possible to do better, mainly because of restricted mobility.

A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market.

Nouf Ibrahim, a businesswoman in Riyadh, said: “It will surely boost female economic participation and help increase women’s representation in the workforce immensely. It will also help to reduce the overall national unemployment rate as most of the unemployed are women and many of them are eligible as university graduates.”

She echoed the opinion that the move would help to bring an economic windfall for Saudi women, making it easier for them to work and do business, and thus play a bigger and better role that would help economic and social diversification in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

“Being able to drive from Sunday onwards after the ban is lifted will be a wonderful experience. Earlier we were dependent on a male family member and house driver to take us to workplace, to the shopping center, school or other required places for some work, now we can drive and that will allow active participation in productive work,” Sulafa Hakami, a Saudi woman working as the digital communication manager with an American MNC in Riyadh, told Arab News.

“Saudi women can now share effectively the bigger and better responsibilities,” she said.


New projects aim to share Saudi human-rights successes with the world

Updated 16 July 2020

New projects aim to share Saudi human-rights successes with the world

  • Initiatives aim to highlight historic reforms and promote more accurate international view of Kingdom’s efforts to improve human rights
  • Human Rights Commission also aims to enhance cooperation with organizations working in the field in other countries

RIYADH: The Saudi Human Rights Commission (HRC) has launched three international initiatives to highlight the success of recent reforms implemented by the Kingdom, and enhance its cooperation with other organizations working in the field.

“(Saudi Arabia) has witnessed historic transformations and qualitative moves in human rights, as more than 70 reform decisions in the field were issued under the directives of King Salman and under the direct leadership and tireless follow-up of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” said Awwad Al-Awwad, the president of the HRC.

He described the reforms as a success story, and said the commission will work to highlight the achievements around the world.

At the forefront of this effort is the launch of the HRC’s International Communication Program, as part of which representatives of civil-society institutions will be invited to participate in commission meetings and international human-rights events. In addition, young national leaders will be trained to enhance the representation of the Kingdom in human-rights organizations worldwide.

The HRC considers that the program presents an important opportunity to educate and inform international partners and the public about the unprecedented steps Saudi Arabia is taking to meet international standards of human rights and its achievements to that end. It also provides a mechanism that will enable the country to develop its relationship with the international community and highlight developments and reforms.

Al-Awwad also announced the launch of the HRC International Platform, which will focus on sharing English-language information and data reflecting the progress made in safeguarding human rights in the Kingdom. This will include direct interaction with the public on social media.

The third new initiative is a monthly, English-language newsletter featuring information about the latest human-rights reforms and developments in Saudi Arabia, including efforts being made to promote and protect them. A mailing list has also been created that includes more than 500 prominent human-rights campaigners around the world. The newsletter and other HRC publications will be sent to them to enhance communication and interaction, and keep them informed of human-rights initiatives in the Kingdom.

Al-Awwad said that the new initiatives are designed to reveal the true state of human rights in the Kingdom, which has undergone unprecedented development at all levels in the past few years. They will also improve communication and encourage positive relationships with human-rights campaigners and organizations in other countries, he added, in an effort to correct misconceptions that have formed for many reasons, not least the absence until now of accurate information.

The HRC has already produced the first issue of its newsletter, which highlighted the Kingdom’s improved ranking in the latest edition of the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which was published in June. It praised the efforts being made by Saudi authorities to crack down on human trafficking through a series of reforms, the most recent of which was the launch of the national referral mechanism. This was strengthened by a Saudi-international training partnership, organized through the International Organization for Migration and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and a Saudi-US partnership to combat human trafficking.

The newsletter also reported on the Kingdom’s efforts to tackle terrorism, which undermines and threatens human rights. In addition, it included information about penal reforms, and the Supreme Court’s decision to abolish flogging as a punishment in ta’zir cases — in which, under Sharia, punishment is at the discretion of the judge or ruler — and replace it with imprisonment and/or a fine.