Employment for Saudi women is a ‘right and a necessity’

Dr. Tamader bint Youssef Al-Rammah, the deputy minister of labor and social development, speaks at the International Exhibition and Conference on Higher Education (IECHE 2019) in Riyadh. (Photo/Social media)
Updated 12 April 2019

Employment for Saudi women is a ‘right and a necessity’

  • Labor Ministry sets 12 objectives to help more Saudis find work

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Development has set itself 12 objectives as part of ambitious plans to improve its services, help more Saudis find work, guarantee a prosperous future for the country and achieve sustainable development.

The initiative, launched under the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020, part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, was announced by Dr. Tamader bint Youssef Al-Rammah, the deputy minister of labor and social development. It is part of a working paper she presented in Riyadh during a session, titled “Skills and the Future of Labor,” at the International Exhibition and Conference on Higher Education (IECHE 2019), which was organized by the Ministry of Education.

Al-Rammah said that the ministry seeks to empower all citizens, including women and those with disabilities, who are able to work to support themselves by integrating them in the labor market.

“The ministry also endeavors to achieve higher levels of sustainable economic contribution for volunteering, increase quality volunteering opportunities for everyone who wishes to volunteer across the Kingdom, enrich their experience with volunteering by increasing the number of volunteers from 23,000 to 1 million by 2030, and improve the economic value of each volunteer from SR0.6 ($0.16) per hour to SR15 per hour,” she added.

Al-Rammah said the ministry is working to increase the focus of local companies on social responsibility by encouraging them to diversify their activities in this area, and raise the level of their contributions through the provision of community development services. It also aims to increase the nonprofit sector’s sustainable economic contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) from 0.3 to 0.6 percent, and the percentage of workers in the sector from 0.13 to 0.32 percent of the total workforce. 

She added that the ministry is planning to establish a national center for the development of the nonprofit sector to ensure its independence and contribution to development needs.

She said the ministry aims to help nonprofit organizations increase the social and developmental revenue from their initiatives and services; improve their efficiency; strengthen their role in providing and implementing innovative solutions to meet development challenges and needs; and create opportunities for social investment.

The ministry also plans to develop legislation and services that will empower persons with disabilities and provide them with the opportunity to integrate with and be active in society, by increasing the proportion of employed persons with disabilities from 7.7 percent to 12 percent by 2020. 

Al-Rammah said that the Authority for the Care of Persons with Disabilities has been established for this purpose, and that the ministry will launch a National Strategy for Persons with Disabilities, as the Kingdom is a member of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.

She also said that employment for women is a right and a necessity, not a luxury or secondary issue in society. She pointed out that one of the objectives of the NTP 2020 is to increase the rate of participation in the labor market by women from 17 to 25 percent by empowering them, making it easy for them to perform jobs, and developing the retail sector.

“As an extension to Vision 2030, and in view of the social protection system program, Saudi Arabia seeks to develop and provide a unified comprehensive national platform for all means of support,” said Al-Rammah. 

“The platform will provide all laws, policies and programs for helping social security categories face crises, and empowering them, as well as providing them with suitable job opportunities.”


Cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

Gebran Al-Maliki, owner of a cocoa plantation, says introducing cocoa will help reshape the agriculture sector. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 51 min 37 sec ago

Cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

  • The Jazan region is known for its lush, green lands and fertile soil that possesses the necessary ingredients to ensure the development of other crops that guarantee continuity and different harvest times for each type of plant harvested in the area

MAKKAH: In an unprecedented experience for the Kingdom, a harvest season of more than 200 cocoa shrubs began this year in Jazan following several years of planting the Filipino seedlings.

The foreign plant is a new experiment for the Kingdom as it plans on testing out the long-term success of planting the favored sweet treat.

Specialists in the region pointed out that the cocoa shrub resembles the famous coffee shrub found in the south region of the Kingdom, where a number of farmers have already begun to evaluate the experience and continue cultivating land to make room for more, while others were not so successful.

The supervisor of the Mountain Areas Development and Reconstruction Authority in Jazan, Eng. Bandar Al-Fifi, said: “The cocoa shrub is a tropical or subtropical shrub and is native to South America and East Asia. It was presented to the Mountain Regions Development and Reconstruction Authority a few years back, specifically to the agricultural research station.”

He added: “The cultivation process was carried out six years ago by bringing seeds and seedlings from the Philippines. The seeds were cultivated and seedlings were distributed to some interested farmers in the region.

“We in the station’s field have cocoa, banana, mango and guava trees, as well as many tropical and subtropical trees. The field is being used as a guarantor of seeds, in addition to conducting tests and real experiments in an area of 200 meters, in particular on 15 cocoa plants and the first cocoa shrub in Saudi Arabia.”

He told Arab News that it was difficult at first to encourage farmers to invest in the plant, as many were hesitant to introduce a plant not indigenous to the region in order to facilitate the establishment of manufacturing factories and grow a local market.

Al-Fifi said that in Ethiopia, companies buy crops from farmers and then start an integrated industrial process of sorting, cleaning, drying and roasting, because to complete the whole process is not economically viable for farmers alone.

“If every farmer owns 30 cocoa shrubs, this will be an additional source of income for their future,” he added.

The Jazan region is known for its lush, green lands and fertile soil that possesses the necessary ingredients to ensure the development of other crops that guarantee continuity and different harvest times for each type of plant harvested in the area. Rainfall is abundant, seasonal fluctuations in rainfall are scarce and humidity is high, ensuring that soil continues to retain the moisture it requires for harvests.

“In addition to the fact that the temperature gap between small and mature shrubs is not big, due to our proximity to the equator, Saudi Arabia is located below the tropical line, which creates environmental conditions that help the shrub grow,” said Al-Fifi.

Gebran Al-Maliki, one of the owners of a cocoa plantation in Jazan, told Arab News: “Adding cocoa to the Kingdom’s agricultural field is one of the innovative things in Saudi Arabia and it began to give good results that would broadly stimulate the development process, provide an agricultural model that can be trusted and improve experience in a country that supports its farmers and provides them with all the required capabilities.”

He received seeds and seedlings by the end of 2016 as an experiment in which everyone was granted support. “Some wanted to give this new experience a try, because it is similar to the coffee plant. It is an ordinary shrub, just like fruit and citrus trees, but it is a drought-tolerant shrub that is watered once a week.”

To successfully cultivate the fruit, Al-Maliki said that shrubs need shade when first planted in the ground as they are “quite finicky,” but that with the proper care and attention, a tree will flower at about three to four years of age and can grow up to two meters in height.

With up to 400 seeds, the product testing began on his farm after just four years.

“You can find 30 to 50 seeds inside a pod, which are later dried under the sun and ground to become a ready-to-use powder. Cocoa powder can be found in chocolate, oils and cosmetics, in addition to several other uses,” Al-Maliki said.

He said that the seed is very bitter and explained that the more bitter, the better the quality. He added that he has four shrubs, and what hindered the spreading process was waiting for the product quality test results, indicating that the fruit was tried and was found very successful.

The agricultural research station for the Development and Reconstruction of Agricultural Areas aim to reach 50 shrubs in the region to provide enough fruit to produce seeds and seedlings for farmers. Al-Fifi said that they aim to reach 400 seedlings per year that will be distributed, on top of seedlings grown by the region’s farmers themselves.