Saudi woman fruit seller creates new market

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Standing next to her stall in Jeddah’s Al-Shatea district, Al-Otaibi said ‘work is allowed for both men and women and any noble field is something we would all be proud to work in.’ (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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AN photo by Huda Bashatah
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Updated 19 July 2020

Saudi woman fruit seller creates new market

  • Um Sultan Al-Otaibi, one of a few, if not the only, female fruit seller in the Kingdom, entered the male-dominated field after deciding it ‘desperately needs a woman’s touch.’

JEDDAH: Social reforms in the Kingdom are bearing fruit day by day as more women find job opportunities in fields once thought to be exclusively male domains.
In recent months, several women have made headlines by working in groundbreaking industries.
Um Sultan Al-Otaibi, one of a few, if not the only, female fruit seller in the Kingdom, entered the male-dominated field after deciding it “desperately needs a woman’s touch.”
Standing proudly next to her fruit stall in Al-Shatea district, north of Jeddah, she told Arab news: “Work is allowed for both men and women and any successful noble field is something we would all be proud to work in.”
She experimented in projects without success, but learned from her mistakes. “Food projects have been overly consumed, and so have fashion projects and decorations. Only fruit and vegetable selling wasn’t overly consumed,” she said.
She added that women are more cautious when shopping for fruit and vegetables.
“The person who knows how to pick out the best fruit and vegetables most in the world is a woman,” she said. “The municipality gave me a space for my kiosk and I pick out the fruit and vegetables myself, always choosing the finest produce that will make customers happy,” she added.
“When I first started, I said to myself that it’s another experiment. If it worked out, great. If it didn’t, that’s OK,” she said.
Al-Otaibi said the first customers who visited her stall found it strange that a woman would help them shop. But she said her job became easier and more comfortable with time — some visitors grew confident in her abilities and became regular customers.
On the difficulties of working in the market, Al-Otaibi said: “It’s already difficult for men, you can imagine how difficult it is for women. “The first challenge is the timing — you have to be here at your kiosk by dawn. Second, you’re dealing with a group of men and you’re the only woman in the field, and you have to work on your own.
“You take your own car and drive around shops to pick out the highest quality fruit and vegetables. It was difficult at first, but I know how to manage my time now and finish my tasks in record time.”
The fruit seller credits social reforms for enabling her to work in the industry.
“Our leadership enabled women to work in any field they wanted. It gave me the courage to pursue this. I know I’m doing the right thing. Women should be included in all fields,” she said.
While Al-Otaibi is paving the way for women, she also has some much-needed advice.
“My suggestion for other women who want to run their own kiosk is to forget all the difficulties, because they will find difficulties in every other field. People will eventually get used to it,” she said.
“It is a social step forward to diversify the market,” she added.


Fahad Al-Azzam, assistant deputy minister for empowerment at the Saudi Ministry of Health

Updated 14 August 2020

Fahad Al-Azzam, assistant deputy minister for empowerment at the Saudi Ministry of Health

Fahad Al-Azzam has been the assistant deputy minister for empowerment at the Ministry of Health since September 2019.
He has also been the general manager for enterprise at the ministry’s project management office since July 2016, where he developed and implemented a standard set of project management processes and models, and built the framework and updated it to account for developments and best practices.
It was announced on Monday that Al-Azzam’s role as assistant deputy minister for empowerment has been extended for another year.
Al-Azzam obtained a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran, in 2007. He studied abroad in the US, obtaining a master’s degree in engineering and technology management from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 2014.
Prior to his current position, Al-Azzam worked as a cooperative trainee at the Saudi Electricity Co. between May and October 2006.
At the Advanced Electronics Co., he worked as an assistant field service engineer between July 2007 and May 2009, and technical support and field service engineer between May 2009 and December 2010.
At the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, he worked as senior electrical engineer at their radiation safety department between January 2011 and February 2015.
He developed a safety program for exporting and importing electronics devices to and from Saudi Arabia and worked at controlling the risk resulting from the use of radiation-emitting devices. He also worked there as a project manager at their project management office between February 2015 and July 2016.