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


Saudi mayor honors British expat for 27 years of beach cleaning

Updated 04 December 2020

Saudi mayor honors British expat for 27 years of beach cleaning

Saudi mayor honors British expat for 27 years of beach cleaning
  • Expat Neil Walker has been cleaning the beaches in the area for 27 years
  • He has spotted a lot of debris left behind by other bathers

RIYADH: It was a visit to a Saudi beach that prompted a British expat to spend his day off cleaning the area – he continued his efforts for 27 years – now Neil Walker is being rewarded for his efforts.

The Brit had gone to a beach south of Half Moon Bay in Alkhobar when he discovered a vast amount of debris that was both washed up by the sea, or left behind by other visitors and decided to clean the area.

Now, after more than a quarter of a century, as Walker prepares to return home to Britain, he has been rewarded for his environmental work by the mayor of the Easter province, Fahd Al-Jubair.

Neil Walker — who  is returning to the UK after more than a quarter-century in Saudi Arabia — ‘is deeply humbled to be recognized for his cleanup drive’. (Supplied)

“For the last 27 years I have been visiting a stretch of beach in that area on my day off to spend the day on a potentially lovely beach looking out on the glorious Arabian Gulf,” he said.

“Unfortunately, it was marred by litter and manmade rubbish, either brought in by the tides or dumped by previous visitors. So I took it upon myself to clean the beach before settling down and then in the late afternoon to extend my cleaning activities to either side of my camping spot.”

The diverse ecosystem of the Arabian Gulf supports a range of coastal and marine life, including mangroves, sea grass, coral reefs – as well as a variety of creatures including dolphins, turtles and a rich variety of fish.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Eastern Province Mayor Fahd Al-Jubair presented Neil Walker with his certificate.
  • The mayor thanked Walker for his service to the Kingdom’s environment.
  • Walker is returning to the UK after more than a quarter-century in Saudi Arabia.
  • Eastern Province municipality has previously recognized the efforts of 200 Filipinos over the years for helping to clean the beaches and to promote awareness among other residents.
  • It has launched a number of initiatives intended to involve the public in keeping public areas free of waste.

The rapid industrialization of the area has introduced many environmental challenges that require human intervention, the fishing industry has also caused problems with discarded nets and traps that wild life get trapped in..

There have been numerous global campaigns encouraging people to pick up litter on beaches to help preserve the environment, ranging from arranged group clean ups to something as simple as encouraging each visitor to beaches to pick up three pieces of rubbish and place them in the bins provided.

Neil Walker has inspired creative environmental initiatives in Alkhobar. (Supplied)

“Although I have seen a slight improvement, a lot still needs to be done and hopefully the publicity I have received will be of value to this end,” Walker said.

“As I see it, the problem is that the majority of the public are unaware and are used to having other people cleaning up for them, they automatically think that it is somebody else’s responsibility. This needs to change,” Walker said, adding that he was deeply humbled and honored to be recognized for his limited contribution in cleaning up the beaches.

“A few years ago, I assume there was a change in management in the municipality, resulting in a new logo and cleaning crew, which has led to a greatly improved street cleaning and public area routine and the introduction of many waste bins, which are now being used by the public,” he continued.

Neil Walker has inspired creative environmental initiatives in Alkhobar. (Supplied)

Eastern Province Mayor Fahd Al-Jubair presented Walker — who is returning to the UK after more than a quarter-century in Saudi Arabia — with his certificate and thanked him for his service to the Kingdom’s environment.

“We hope this message gets across to residents of the Eastern Province. We are keen to honor all efforts to protect the environment and to recognize creative initiatives aimed at preserving the environment whether from Saudi nationals or expatriate residents,” Al-Jubair told Arab News, urging all members of the public to work together to protect the environment.

Eastern Province municipality has previously recognized the efforts of 200 Filipinos over the years for helping to clean the beaches and to promote awareness among other residents.

Like several other municipalities nationwide, it has launched a number of initiatives intended to involve the public in keeping public areas free of waste in order to better preserve the environment.