Thousands of Saudi volunteers pull together to fight coronavirus

Saudi health care volunteers are assisting in different areas. (SPA)
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Updated 07 June 2020

Thousands of Saudi volunteers pull together to fight coronavirus

  • Volunteers are from varying backgrounds; 32 percent of volunteers are female while 68 percent are male

RIYADH: Saudi volunteers are part of the worldwide army of health care workers on the front line in the battle against the coronavirus.
In April, the Saudi Health Ministry called for volunteers to support the community response against COVID-19 via its platform https://volunteer.srca.org.sa/#!/home.
More than 400 areas of volunteering are covered on the website. There are more than 160,000 registered volunteers, 72,000 of whom are active and have signed up across the Kingdom.
Volunteers are from varying backgrounds; 32 percent of volunteers are female while 68 percent are male. As the Kingdom is in its second phase of slowly returning to normal life, there is still a long way to go as cases continue to be recorded, and health care workers — now more than ever — are needed.
Health care volunteers are assisting in different areas. Some are helping to monitor patients in quarantine, conducting COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction tests and delivering medicine to patients’ homes; some are working in emergency rooms, others are sent out to provide psychological support while others travel to shopping centers and malls to help raise awareness about the precautionary measures.
Duaa Al-Bukhari, 27, a lab technician working at the Kudai field hospital in Makkah, is grappling with the pandemic while her family is in Jeddah less than 100 miles away.
Through her work, she has participated in the mass testing of 2,500 individuals in one of Makkah’s most crowded neighborhoods. She described the experience as challenging but rewarding.

HIGHLIGHTS

• There are more than 160,000 registered volunteers, 72,000 of whom are active and have signed up across the Kingdom.

• Volunteers are from varying backgrounds; 32 percent of volunteers are female while 68 percent are male.

“When I heard about this volunteering opportunity, I was really excited to be a part of it. At the beginning I was scared to volunteer in Al-Nakasah neighborhood, but I knew I had the right potential to face this challenge,” she said.
The Kudai field hospital was set up by the Ministry of Health in coordination with the Armed Forces and in cooperation with the health authorities of the Makkah governorate to cope with the growing number of infected patients in Saudi Arabia.
In Alkhobar, 21-year-old Nebras Al-Hajji, a student training to become an anesthesia technologist, is working as a volunteer at the Al-Arabiya health center hundreds of miles away from the Al-Ahsa home where she usually lives with her family.
Leaving home was difficult, especially during a time of uncertainty. Al-Hajji’s initial reaction was of fear, a natural reaction under the circumstances, but as a passionate medical student she understood that it was her duty to provide assistance where she could, however difficult the situation. “I will not let my fear overcome me; fear is a part of us being human but I will not let it ruin my excitement to be a part of this initiative,” she said.
In Sakaka, 26-year-old Rayan Al-Mutairi, an optometrist, left his home town of Qassim to help health workers screen for COVID-19 cases and increase the public’s awareness about the virus. He has spent the past three months on the frontline along with many other health care workers.


Technology is key to improving women’s lives post COVID-19

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Updated 2 min 53 sec ago

Technology is key to improving women’s lives post COVID-19

  • Women’s digital forum discusses empowerment in the Kingdom

JEDDAH: Technology is an important tool to support the empowerment of women and is the key to improving their lives — this was the focus of a Saudi roundtable discussion spawned by Women20 (W20), an official engagement group of the G20.

Organized to coincide with Al-Nahda Foundation becoming president of Saudi Arabia 2020 Women (W20), the third forum of the National Dialogues on Saudi Women was opened by W20 chair Dr. Thoraya Obaid.

Dr. Obaid said: “We managed to consolidate important relations and friendships with representatives of the G20 countries, but the most important thing for us is national dialogue, as we will complete our mission at the group by the end of this year and the only thing will remain is the national work.”

The virtual meeting discussed Saudi Arabia’s strategic plan to empower women and the current challenges and opportunities in the light of COVID-19. Panelists discussed the current situation of Saudi women in the light of the W20’s areas of interest for this year.

These included women’s financial inclusion, technical inclusion, entrepreneurship empowerment, and women’s participation in decision making.

The role of technology, especially its significantly enhanced role during the COVID-19 crisis, was a major focus, looking at women’s use of technology and their contribution to the production of technical programs.

“Only 48 percent of women are adapted to technology,” said Deema Al-Yahya, innovation and e-commerce consultant and founder of Women Spark initiative.

“Women are users of technology rather than producers; 60 percent of Saudi women are using social media platforms without producing any digital content,” Al-Yahaya said. “We need to shift women’s role from a user to a producer. It is something several governmental entities are working on to give women productive opportunities, such as Monshaat.”

Al-Yahya said that even skilled women with the right talent and technical experience do not always have equal opportunities, especially those who reside in remote areas or in cities where there is a lack of suitable opportunities to their qualifications.

“Established companies are outsourcing their services to other Arab countries while there are many talented women in the Kingdom,” she said. “However, with this crisis, and as many services shift online, these women can find better opportunities and they have to invest in them.”

The various discussions included the empowerment of women who are disadvantaged, who do not have a formal job, or who are owners of small and medium businesses.

Moreover, entrepreneurship opportunities, inclusion in work, including positive discrimination in favor of women, labor rights, vacations, and other issues related to women such unpaid caring roles by women were also discussed.

“The COVID-19 crisis has brought with it huge potential entrepreneurship ideas which are mainly technological, you only need to find a problem that hasn’t been properly solved,” said Amal Dokhan, CEO Global Entrepreneurship Network GEN Saudi. “Women have an attention to details by intuition and this is exactly what is needed today.”

“We do not want women to limit their aspirations in entrepreneurship to specific sectors. There are many great opportunities available today for women, they only need to think out of the box,” she said. “There are endless untouched digital opportunities, especially the services that are targeting women.”