The W20 is over. A year of preparation, meetings and recommendations to make it succeed ended in the two-day virtual summit.
The G20 engagement group focused on women’s empowerment and gender equality was a great success, as seen by the comments during the summit and those made by foreign delegates. Many people were surprised and did not expect the quality they saw from the Saudi team.
And why would it not succeed? Everyone chosen to work with Al-Nahda — the Saudi nonprofit women’s empowerment society — showed both professionalism and excellence. With a team leader such as Dr. Thoraya Obaid at the helm, a successful outcome was never to be questioned.
One evening several years ago, when Thoraya came back to the Kingdom to settle after retiring from her long career at the UN, I was invited to a dinner in her honor. I was delighted because finally I was to meet this historical figure, this mysterious woman who was only read about in articles and books.
As I entered the living room, expecting animated babbling, I was greeted by a civilized silence that penetrated my ears more than any loud explosion. I shook her hand and sat next to her, observing and listening to her quiet and abbreviated comments. I was baffled! This is THE Thoraya Obaid I was looking forward to meeting? A brief entrance into and quick exit from my life!
The official G20 engagement group focused on women’s empowerment and was a great success.
A couple of years later, we met again as part of the first group of women to have been honored by being appointed to the Shoura Council. This time, she looked around the room and came to sit by me. And here I met the real Thoraya, the wise, intelligent and experienced Thoraya.
When I confessed the disappointment I felt during that first encounter, she admitted she was uncomfortable in large groups and preferred to remain quiet. Today, Thoraya is not only my friend but also my mentor. I cannot imagine my life without her.
She has always professed inter-generational discussions, stating that it is our duty to teach young people. I believe that the Kingdom should make more use of her, as both her mind and heart are in the right place.
Hoda Al-Helaissi has been a member of the Shoura Council since 2013. She is also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee within the Shoura.