UK official: Saudi women's progress 'striking' and 'strong'

UK official: Saudi women's progress 'striking' and 'strong'
Dr. Nouf Alumair, Dr. Moudhi Al Jamea, Shaima Al Husseini and Hajar Alnaim during a pannel discussion at the British Embassy in Riyadh, March 4 2020. (AN photo by Lojien Ben Gassem)
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Updated 08 March 2020

UK official: Saudi women's progress 'striking' and 'strong'

UK official: Saudi women's progress 'striking' and 'strong'
  • Stephanie Al-Qaq, of Foreign and Commonwealth Office, praises greater female access to education and labor market
  • Remarks came at forum at British Embassy in Riyadh in which women shared stories of their experiences and careers

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform program has secured strong progress for the country in many areas, particularly women’s empowerment, Stephanie Al-Qaq, director of the Middle East and North Africa department at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said. “The pace of change under Vision 2030 is really striking, with particularly strong progress for women in terms of giving them greater access to the labor market and education,” Al-Qaq said on Wednesday at the British Embassy in Riyadh.
To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, the embassy and the British Council organized a special forum with leading women sharing their experiences about their careers, challenges they faced and the opportunities offered by Vision 2030.
Al-Qaq, the first female director of the Middle East and North Africa section at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has visited Riyadh twice in the past 12 months. “I passionately believe in empowering women,” she said.
“We have really amazing role models for all of us here. I want to support both women and men who are looking to the future female leaders in this country.”
The British diplomat urged women to “try to be themselves.”
“It’s so important that you show other women that you can be yourself and still be successful.”
In a panel discussion titled “Enabling Future Leaders,” Shaima Al-Husseini, managing director of the Saudi Sports for All Federation, said that successful individuals were “soldiers of change.”
“Sport is a new sector in Saudi Arabia, and giving everyone an opportunity, and changing their perspective about sports or physical activity is important,” she said.


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The royal decree turning the Saudi General Sports Authority into a ministry reflects sport’s growing importance.  “One of the most important initiatives was introducing sports in public female schools, allowing women to attend sports matches and allowing female gyms that did not exist in the past. Now, in three years, we have at least one woman on every board of the federations. I’m proud to say that 50 percent of my team is female.
Nouf Al-Numair, adviser to the deputy minister of planning and transformation at the Ministry of Health, said that she heard from Princess Haifa bint Mohammed that women made up 70 percent of Formula E management.
“(This) reflects how this sector is welcoming females and there is a clear path for them in the future.”
Moudhi Aljamea, general manager of digital technology at the Saudi Telecom Company (STC) academy, said that she realized how much impact she had made as STC’s first female general manager when several women came to her office to tell her how proud and happy they were that she had taken the position.
Film director and producer Hajjar Al-Naim, a member of the Saudi Film Council, said that she focuses on helping others and giving them the access they need.
“I love education and I want to share the opportunity that I have with other women in my industry,” she said.