W20 ‘sherpa’ Salma Al-Rashid champions gender equality and female empowerment

W20 ‘sherpa’ Salma Al-Rashid champions gender equality and female empowerment
“We’re living in an extremely exciting time in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Rashid said. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 October 2020

W20 ‘sherpa’ Salma Al-Rashid champions gender equality and female empowerment

W20 ‘sherpa’ Salma Al-Rashid champions gender equality and female empowerment
  • Prominent Saudi social worker relishes the opportunity to bring together diverse voices from across the globe for a common goal
  • The first ever virtual Women 20 Summit will bring together experts and leaders from a variety of disciplines over Oct. 20-21

RIYADH: Salma Al-Rashid has represented Saudi Arabia at the Women 20 (W20) — the official G20 engagement group on women — since 2018, first in Argentina then last year in Japan. Now, as Riyadh prepares to host the 2020 summit in November, Al-Rashid is delighted to have been named this year’s “sherpa” tasked with undertaking preparatory work for the conference.

Since Oct. 2019, Al-Rashid has been the chief advocacy officer of the Alnahda Philanthropic Society for Women, a Saudi charity that champions female empowerment and participation. At the helm of the W20 Riyadh edition, Alnahda will help facilitate discussions among a network of delegates representing non-governmental women’s organizations, female entrepreneurs and think tanks from across the G20 member states.

The aim is to ensure gender considerations are placed firmly on the table and are included in the G20 Leaders’ Declaration as policies and commitments that foster gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

“I take the task of head of delegation and sherpa very seriously,” Al-Rashid told Arab News in the run-up to the summit. “I have the responsibility to bring forward the voice of Saudi Arabian women in all their shapes, forms and experiences. I serve as the mechanism to project the voices of women of Saudi Arabia in this global forum.”




Salma Al-Rashid has represented Saudi Arabia at the Women 20 (W20) first in Argentina then last year in Japan. (Supplied)

Recalling her long association with Alnahda, Al-Rashid said she had always been passionate about social and development issues. “Throughout my career, I have firmly believed that by building a global and an inclusive culture, where all voices are heard, regardless of age, sex, race, religious beliefs and political affiliation, we can make the world more just and equitable for all,” she said.

Alnahda, which means “the awakening,” was founded in 1962 to help empower Saudi women economically and socially through targeted development projects.

As a sherpa, Al-Rashid is responsible for the operational management of this year’s W20, its advocacy and communications, and for providing overall support to the W20’s Saudi chair, Dr. Thoraya Obaid. She relishes the opportunity to bring together diverse voices from around the globe for a common goal.

“The W20 this year allowed us to create a bridge between global and local conversations that is meaningful, and at times challenging, with the different perspectives of various sectors of the community on what matters most to women and how we can ensure women’s economic empowerment,” Al-Rashid said.

“The W20 has provided us with an opportunity to contribute to the local advancement of Saudi women.”

Al-Rashid started out with Alnahda as a volunteer. She went on to found a volunteer service program and later shifted to managing academic guidance and career-development programs to give young girls from underprivileged backgrounds a leg up on the competition as well as access further education.

“After that, I co-managed a nationwide campaign to enhance civic education among Saudi men and women during the municipal elections of 2015, when women were allowed to run and vote. So that was an exciting point in my career,” she said.




“The W20 has provided us with an opportunity to contribute to the local advancement of Saudi women,” says Al-Rashid. (Supplied)

Al-Rashid’s interest in the development and social issues started at an early age thanks to her mother, who has been an Alnahda member for over 25 years.

“I've had the privilege and experience of listening to the realities and experiences of Saudi women,” she said. “So, I would sit with my mom and just listen to conversations with social workers, beneficiaries, and the leaders and employees of Alnahda.

“I grew up listening to the various experiences, struggles, challenges and obstacles that women face, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds. I think that’s most probably what sparked my passion.”

With such an impressive background in women’s advocacy work, Al-Rashid seemed like the obvious candidate for the sherpa role, appointed to it in December last year. She is excited to see all the months of planning and discussion come together for the upcoming summit.

“Jointly with our delegates across the G20, we formulate concrete, actionable policy recommendations to further advance gender equality within the G20 negotiations,” she said.




Al-Rashid: We did not ignore this pandemic that hit women the hardest. (Spplied)

“One thing we did this year as W20 Saudi Arabia was an in-house analysis, before January. We wanted to understand how effective the W20 has been in the past five years and how efforts have been reflected at the G20 level, through additionally consulting with international organizations and experts who we call our knowledge partners,” she said.

Based on this analysis, the delegates have settled on this year’s framework. “W20 delegates have agreed that we have three main areas of focus: Women’s financial inclusion, labor inclusion and digital inclusion. And every year a presidency introduces a fourth focus area. We wanted to continue the legacy of past presidencies, and build on their work.”

This year’s presidency proposal was to promote inclusive decision-making, a position jointly agreed by the summit’s 20 delegates. “We need to ensure that women are represented at every level of the decision-making process,” Al-Rashid said.

“If we look across the G20, we have only one female leader among the G20 leaders. We don’t see many women in leadership positions, but W20 goes beyond that. It’s not just women on boards and as CEOs. We recognize that the decision-making process is very complex and there are different stages. We need to ensure that at every stage there is representation of women and that representation is diverse.”

An ongoing challenge the W20 delegation wants to see the G20 address is the lack of women being hired to leadership positions.

“We only recently celebrated the appointment of the first woman CEO at Citigroup. And we know that Wall Street suffers from not having enough women. So, it is a challenge across the globe,” Al-Rashid said.

This is a challenge that Saudi Arabia has risen to meet in recent years, with a raft of new reforms designed to bolster women’s participation and empowerment.




Al-Rashid: We see a lot of reforms and advancement to push for women’s participation in the economic development of Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

“We’re living in an extremely exciting time in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Rashid said. “We see a lot of reforms and advancement to push for women’s participation in the economic development of Saudi Arabia. One of the goals of Vision 2030 is to accelerate women’s representation in the labor market and in leadership positions.

“We’ve celebrated the appointment of the first Saudi ambassador to the US, Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar, and we’ve celebrated a number of appointments of women in both the private and public sector.

“Are we there yet? Are we even close to where we hope to see ourselves? Not yet. It’s a very long journey, but we are on the right track.”

As a result of the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the G20 Summit and all engagement groups are being held remotely. Al-Rashid says the virus and its consequences have laid bare the economic vulnerabilities of women and the vital role of the W20.

“Despite the difficulties and challenges that we were faced with this year, we are privileged and honored to be able to respond to the question of what we can and have done this year,” she said.

“We did not stay quiet. We did not ignore this pandemic that hit women the hardest. We look at it as an opportunity to build back better.”

Al-Rashid sees an opportunity for world leaders to take concrete action in further advancing women’s economic participation. She puts it this way: “Only through empowering women, and through addressing the impact of COVID-19 on women, will we be able to further advance and sustainably recover from this pandemic.”

Twitter: @LujainBenGassem


Arab coalition destroys 10 Houthi drones targeting civilians

Arab coalition destroys 10 Houthi drones targeting civilians
Updated 46 min 48 sec ago

Arab coalition destroys 10 Houthi drones targeting civilians

Arab coalition destroys 10 Houthi drones targeting civilians
  • Attacks spark calls for action against the Iran-backed militias

RIYADH: The Arab-led coalition fighting in Yemen has intercepted a total of 10 explosive-laden drones targeting civilians on Sunday, according to Al Arabiya TV.

The bloc said earlier that it has destroyed five armed drones and that it was closely following a number of other drones, the television channel reported. It then said it has intercepted five more drones that were fired towards Saudi Arabia. 

The coalition reaffirmed that it continues to work to protect civilians in accordance with international law. 

“We take operational measures to protect civilians and civilian objects in accordance with international humanitarian law,” the statement said. 

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates has condemned on Sunday the Houthi drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, calling the international community to take a “decisive stance” against the “repetitive” attacks militia group.  

The Arab coalition early Saturday said that it intercepted seven Houthi drones launched towards southwest Saudi Arabia towards Khamis Mushait and one fired towards Jazan, in the past 24 hours.

The attacks sparked calls for action against the Iran-backed militias. 

The United States and the United Nations have stepped up diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, which is largely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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Saudi nonprofit provides underprivileged families with 1,000 meals a day

Saudi nonprofit provides underprivileged families with 1,000 meals a day
The initiative, which kicked off on Feb. 14, was planned to run for 30 days, but could be extended. (Supplied)
Updated 07 March 2021

Saudi nonprofit provides underprivileged families with 1,000 meals a day

Saudi nonprofit provides underprivileged families with 1,000 meals a day
  • ‘We intend to do whatever we can to ensure the distribution of food to those in need during pandemic’

RIYADH: A Riyadh charity is distributing 1,000 meals a day to underprivileged families who have been badly affected by the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Founded by Riyadh’s governor, Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdul Aziz, the Khairat program helps ensure that low-income families in the Kingdom’s capital have access to two full, healthy, and balanced meals a day, taking care of not only the cooking process, but also the distribution to those in need.
Abdullah Al-Sebai, the general supervisor of Khairat, told Arab News that the program was initially established in 2018 as a means of collecting leftover food from banquet halls, weddings, and other major events where a surplus tends to be left.


“Our team would collect the leftover food from these events, package it up neatly, and distribute it to families in need,” he said.
However, once the pandemic shut down those large-scale gatherings, the team at Khairat quickly found a solution that would ensure those families would not be left in the lurch.


“With the green light from Prince Faisal, we established a professional relationship with a kitchen belonging to the charity Al-Melwan, who have employed seven Saudi women to cook the necessary meals for distribution,” Al-Sebai added. “Khairat purchased the meals from them and is responsible for the delivery on a daily basis.”
Once the food has been prepared by the team at Al-Melwan’s kitchen, Al-Sebai said that the meals go out twice a day — 500 lunches and 500 dinners, all delivered within half an hour to the families that the charity has had longstanding dealings with.
The initiative, which kicked off on Feb. 14, was planned to run for 30 days, but could be extended.
“We intend to do whatever we can to ensure that these families aren’t in any danger due to the pandemic,” he said.
To maintain their services alongside Al-Melwan’s, the charity also coordinated with a number of restaurants to provide meals, and private entities that have also contributed to their food distribution. Over 27,000 meals were distributed to around 4,500 families in 13 neighborhoods across Riyadh between Feb. 12-28 as a result.
Khairat is accepting donations, both in the form of monetary contributions, and applications from donors such as banquet halls, hotels, and other event-hosting venues, on their website, https://khiyrat.org.sa/en/.

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Saudis ‘excited, relieved’ as public venues set to reopen

Saudis ‘excited, relieved’ as public venues set to reopen
The Ministry of Interior allows indoor dining in restaurants and cafes along with other recreational activities. However, all events and parties will continue to be suspended until further notice. (Shutterstock)
Updated 07 March 2021

Saudis ‘excited, relieved’ as public venues set to reopen

Saudis ‘excited, relieved’ as public venues set to reopen
  • ‘We must be careful in public places so that we enjoy dining experiences again at restaurants and more’

JEDDAH: After enduring a month of tightened restrictions in the wake of a rise in coronavirus cases earlier this year, Saudis are elated at the prospect of their favorite restaurants, cafes and cinemas reopening on Sunday.
Residents told Arab News of their experiences during the 30-day period and what they are most looking forward to on Sunday.
Asia Khalil, 33, breathed a sigh of relief when she heard that her six-year-old twins will finally be able to spend time at an indoor amusement park, saying that she ran out of ideas to keep her active children occupied.
She told Arab News: “Their father and I tried everything imaginable. It’s a little more difficult this time around because they’re restless, and with school starting late in the day, they need something to tire them out before bedtime and going out wasn’t an option for us.
“We’ll be even more careful than ever before this time around,” she added.

HIGHLIGHT

The Kingdom suspended recreational events on Feb. 3 to halt the spread of COVID-19. The suspension was extended on Feb. 14 for 20 days.

Omar Yasseen, a 27-year-old barista at Brew92, said he was “very excited” to welcome customers back and see his cafe return to life.
“Though it was necessary, the ban did affect us negatively. Time went by slowly,” he told Arab News. “I’m excited to see customers walking in again, staying and lighting up the place.”
Yasseen hopes that people are more careful about following precautionary measures after reopening so that everyone can continue to enjoy public places.
“We must be careful in public places so that we enjoy dining experiences again at restaurants and more.”

The decision to take extra measures to control the spread of coronavirus also affected those with active and social lifestyles, including 26-year-old electrical engineer Ahmed Basfar.
“It had a drastic impact on my daily life since I’m a very outdoor kind of person. I’m used to going to the gym at least four days a week and meeting up with friends at a local coffee shop,” he told Arab News.
“Initially, I was thinking that I can stay at home with my family for a good 10 days and can have quality time with them, but then when I knew that the period was extended for 20 more days, I started to panic.
“I thought I was going to lose all of the progress I made during the past six months in those 30 days. So I went ahead and bought a whole lot of home fitness equipment.”
Basfar ordered a treadmill, aerobic step platform, sports mat, dumbbells, a jump rope and other equipment to stay active at home.
The news that leisure facilities would reopen has excited Basfar, who said that he “cannot wait” to get back into the gym. However, he also praised the benefits of working out at home.
“Although working out at home is not ideal for me since I need to use heavy machines to keep from gaining weight, it has kept me fit until gyms reopens again,” he said.
Nada Jannadi, a 32-year-old psychology counselor, said she faced a challenging time during the 30-day period.
“I’m not so flexible when it comes to my daily routine. So I had to make some changes with my time and find a way to exercise at home,” she told Arab News.
“When they said it’s going to be 10 days with the possibility of an extension, I was telling myself to be patient and that it’s only 10 days. I soon realized that the 10 days were extended so I decided to buy my own equipment and redecorated my apartment to have a small corner designated for my new gear. Some days I get bored from working out at home so I go out for a 60-minute walk in the neighborhood.”
Both Jannadi and Basfar agreed that, although the last month has been a tough period, they will take extra precautions when they return to the gym, and will make sure to follow health and safety protocols.
“We have to be careful, because it’s our health and the people we love before it’s governmental. The government cares about us so we have to do what they are asking us to do. We survived this before and we are going to survive this, too,” Jannadi said.

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Who’s Who: Dr. Yasser Al-Aska, director general of the Saudi Patient Safety Center

Who’s Who: Dr. Yasser Al-Aska, director general of the Saudi Patient Safety Center
Updated 06 March 2021

Who’s Who: Dr. Yasser Al-Aska, director general of the Saudi Patient Safety Center

Who’s Who: Dr. Yasser Al-Aska, director general of the Saudi Patient Safety Center

Dr. Yasser Al-Aska has been director general of the Saudi Patient Safety Center (SPSC) since February. The center aims to raise awareness of patient safety and strengthen and improve the culture of best practices in patient safety in all health institutions throughout the Kingdom.

It also conducts research to improve the quality of health facilities, especially with regard to patient safety.
Al-Aska received a bachelor’s degree in medicine from King Saud University (KSU) in 2006. He also obtained an Arab Board of Emergency Medicine certification from the Arab Board of Health Specializations in 2012.
That year, he was also granted the same certification from the Saudi Commission of Health Specialties. From 2017 to 2020, he directed KSU’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Center (KSU-CSSC).
Al-Aska, who has been an emergency medicine assistant professor at KSU since 2016, was also deputy director of KSU-CSSC from 2016 to 2017. Al-Aska also worked as director of the residency training program and postgraduate studies at KSU’s department of emergency medicine.
From 2010 to 2011, he was chief resident at the Saudi Board of Emergency Medicine program, a substantial residency-training program and the largest emergency program in the region.
From 2007 to 2012, he worked as an emergency medicine resident at King Khalid University. For nearly one year beginning in 2013, he served as a fellow at the Lifespan Medical Simulation Center, Rhode Island, US.
From 2013 to 2015, he worked as a teaching fellow of disaster medicine and emergency preparedness at Brown University.
As an academic, Al-Aska’s research and studies focus mainly on current issues in emergency medicine, disaster preparedness and medical simulation. He is dedicated to the improvement of emergency care experience and medical education within his country and beyond.


Saudi Arabia reforms for women boost economic growth

Saudi Arabia reforms for women boost economic growth
Issam Abousleiman, World Bank regional director of the GCC countries. (Supplied)
Updated 06 March 2021

Saudi Arabia reforms for women boost economic growth

Saudi Arabia reforms for women boost economic growth
  • Abousleiman said the Kingdom is well on its way to achieving its goals and that new reforms usually take between 3-5 years to have a full impact

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has implemented a number of ambitious reforms to enhance women’s economic inclusion, which has resulted in women gaining more access to education and employment options.
According to a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report in 2020, the highest rates of women’s entrepreneurial intentions were reported in the Middle East and North Africa region at 36.6 percent as Saudi female entrepreneurs were responsible for driving this trend.
Issam Abousleiman, the World Bank regional director of the GCC countries, told Arab News that women have played a fundamental role in boosting economic growth in the Kingdom.
“Saudi Arabia has made a lot of reforms related to the business environment, along with those laws that are measured by the Women, Business and the Law (WBL) index that we have,” he said, adding that these laws have increased the number of women entrepreneurs in the Kingdom.
Abousleiman said the number of Saudi women entrepreneurs increased by 50 percent between 2018 and 2019, particularly in the consumer service sector.
The World Bank’s annual WBL report also stated that Saudi Arabia made significant progress, scoring 80 out of 100.
Reforms in the Kingdom have provided funding to projects and initiatives, which have created opportunities for women in government and the private sector. These reforms have played an integral part in creating safe work environments to foster growth and innovation.
“These new businesses are generating new jobs and providing livelihoods for many in Saudi Arabia,” Abousleiman said.

Reforms usually take time to get to that potential. With patience, perseverance and staying on course, these reforms will benefit society and the economy over time.

Issam Abousleiman, World Bank regional director of the GCC countries

“They are giving women a platform for entrepreneurship, leadership and self-realization that we have not seen in the past. They are also helping drive diversification in the Saudi economy.”
Abousleiman said the Kingdom is well on its way to achieving its goals and that new reforms usually take between 3-5 years to have a full impact. According to Saudi employment figures, women have outpaced men over the past few quarters, which is “well above the target set by Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision.”
He added that the Saudi government’s gender-neutral policies have encouraged more women to participate in economic activities with various strategies and action plans. Employment policies, cash benefits for the most vulnerable, support for the disabled, and pensions are among the programs that have benefited most from more female inclusion.
“Women’s participation in the labor force in Saudi Arabia started with very low numbers,” Abousleiman said. “If we go back to 2017, women’s participation in the labor force was at 15 percent. By the end of 2020, we estimate that it has gone up to almost 31 percent.”
He added that the new strategies and plans implemented have targeted some of the most vulnerable members of society and provided more productivity within the system.
“Reforms usually take time to get to that potential,” Abousleiman said. “With patience, perseverance and staying on course, these reforms will benefit society and the economy over time.”