SNAD Al-Zawaj scheme gives young Saudis a head start in married life

The authority’s Saudi Youth in Numbers report, published in August, found that Saudi men and women are choosing to put off weddings. (AFP/File)
The authority’s Saudi Youth in Numbers report, published in August, found that Saudi men and women are choosing to put off weddings. (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 December 2020

SNAD Al-Zawaj scheme gives young Saudis a head start in married life

  SNAD Al-Zawaj scheme gives young Saudis a head start in married life
  • Young couples priced out of marriage can dream of a stable life thanks to the SNAD Mohammed bin Salman program
  • Cash grants and money-management courses enable young couples to settle down without incurring heavy debt

RIYADH: Leaving home, getting married and buying a first property can be daunting and expensive at the best of times, let alone in this age of uncertainty. As a result, many young Saudis are choosing to put off marriage until they have achieved some degree of financial independence.

Fortunately, the SNAD Al-Zawaj (Marriage), an initiative of the SNAD Mohammed bin Salman program, is providing generous grants and money-management courses to help young Saudis tie the knot and get a head start in life as a couple.

“I was newly engaged, in the beginning stages of my life, and any amount, no matter how small, could make a difference at the time,” Mohammed Al-Oniny, who was among the first to apply for the scheme, told Arab News. “This program lifted a weight off of my shoulders. I was overjoyed.”

Since its launch by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a personal initiative on Dec. 30, 2018, SNAD has boosted opportunities for social development and economic sustainability in the Kingdom, where 36.7 percent of the population is aged 15-34 and 30.3 percent are under the age of 15, according to the Saudi General Authority of Statistics (GASTAT).

The authority’s Saudi Youth in Numbers report, published in August, found that Saudi men and women are choosing to put off weddings, citing “high cost of living” as the main factor, followed by “high cost of marriage.”

The coronavirus pandemic has only added to that sentiment, with lockdown pressures and financial woes playing a big role in how young people weigh up financial decisions, save money and prepare for emergencies.




The program has boosted opportunities for social development and economic sustainability in the Kingdom. (AFP)

SNAD Al-Zawaj specifically targets Saudi nationals who are preparing to get married, offering the financial and educational support they need to establish their own households and get on in life.

More than simply handing out money, the program teaches young people how to manage their finances responsibly through a mandatory financial-awareness course. To date, at least 100,000 people have completed the training scheme.

Over that period, SNAD Al-Zawaj has allocated more than SR 520 million ($138.6 million) in funding that has gone to more than 26,000 recipients.

Al-Oniny applied for a grant after spotting an ad on Twitter. “I looked through the requirements to apply and I met all of them, so I signed up and completed the course on financial awareness,” he said.

After sitting an exam and securing a grade above the requisite 60 percent, he was awarded a grant. “I benefited immensely,” he said. “After I passed the course the program sent me SR 20,000 without any request to return the payment in the future.”

PROGRAM PRIORITIZING A STABLE FAMILY AND SOCIAL LIFE

Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification plan, Vision 2030, has prioritized the empowerment of the Kingdom’s large youth population. Help has come in the form of boosting employment opportunities for young people, particularly women, and offering support for startups and young entrepreneurs. With the same objectives in mind, but particularly to help citizens achieve their socio-economic goals, SNAD Mohammed bin Salman was established in December 2018.

Based on several social and nonprofit initiatives launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, SNAD envisages sustainable development through social cooperation that ensures a decent life for citizens in line with the teachings of Islam. The most recent initiatives involve support for charitable associations, release of prisoners and development of historical mosques.

Unlike other welfare schemes that simply hand out money, SNAD strives to promote knowledge and awareness to achieve sustainable social development through nonprofit institutions and sectors. Its aim is to develop nonprofit social initiatives for public welfare while addressing the needs of different segments of Saudi society. The first phase, SNAD Al-Zawaj, is designed to motivate young Saudis to get married and have a stable family and social life.

Rather than loading young people with debt just as they are starting out in life, there is no expectation to repay the marriage grant and no limits on how it should be spent. Recipients are simply asked to take the course and pass the exam.

It is also discreet — welcome news for those hesitant about the idea of accepting government assistance.

“The program is confidential,” Al-Oniny said. “No one gave me SR 20,000 and then asked to take my picture to promote the program. This is one of its major advantages. They don’t ask for anything in return.”

The money came at just the right moment for Al-Oniny. “The program is very helpful, and I think it needs to be promoted and spoken about more. It has helped me and it can help so many more people.”




Mohammed Al-Oniny, SNAD Al-Zawaj grant recipient

Al-Oniny has since encouraged his friends to make their own enquiries and has even taken to social media to praise SNAD Al-Zawaj.

“I promoted and explained the program in a YouTube video, and immediately began to receive many questions and comments from people across the Kingdom,” he said.

“I helped them and a lot of people received the SR 20,000 from the program. Many of my friends and people I know have benefited from it.”

The online application process has been streamlined to make it easy to navigate, with video lectures and step-by-step guides.

Although SNAD Al-Zawaj is designed to assist the widest possible demographic, there are limits on who can apply. For instance, the prospective husband and wife must both be Saudi nationals. The man must be between 21 and 40 years of age; the woman between 18 and 40.

Male applicants must have completed a high-school diploma and their salary must not exceed SR 4,000 per month. Furthermore, the agreed upon dowry must not exceed SR 50,000.
 

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Only the male applicant must complete the financial awareness course and pass the exam with at least 60 percent in order to be considered for a grant.

Al-Oniny was particularly impressed by the educational element of SNAD Al-Zawaj, which sets it apart from other welfare programs and appears to embody the self-reliant spirit of a changing Saudi Arabia.

The grants keep the neediest in mind, and thus are prioritized for applicants orphaned as children, people with disabilities, and the families of fallen soldiers.

“It’s different from other social services because it addresses the needs of different groups of society to develop and to flourish, contributing to Vision 2030,” Al-Oniny said, referring to the Kingdom’s economic diversification strategy.

“I am proud to say that the government noticed me — a single person from Yanbu.”


Why this retired engineer is a ‘model’ Saudi citizen

The models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
The models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
Updated 04 August 2021

Why this retired engineer is a ‘model’ Saudi citizen

The models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
  • Abdul Aziz Taher Al-Hebshi aims to preserve the history of social and cultural life in Saudi Arabia
  • Makkah in those days was a beacon for writers, poets and scientists

MAKKAH: A Saudi agricultural engineer is spending his retirement years helping to preserve the Kingdom’s architectural and cultural history — in the form of extremely accurate models of important buildings and sites in Jeddah and Makkah.

Now Abdul Aziz Taher Al-Hebshi has turned his house in Jeddah’s Al-Rawdah neighborhood into an exhibition space to showcase his models, which represent a fascinating record of daily social and cultural life in the cities in the early-to-mid 20th century.
A good example of this is his model of a “writer’s cafe” in the Misfalah neighborhood of Makkah that was once popular with writers, intellectuals and poets. Through it, he said, he aims to immortalize the role these figures played in the development of literature in Saudi Arabia and the country’s cultural history.
“Knowledgeable people told me that the cafe where Makkah’s writers, poets and intellectuals used to go to was Saleh Abdulhay Cafe, located next to Bajrad Cafe,” 72-year-old Al-Hebshi told Arab News. “Similar cafes were found throughout Makkah’s Misfalah neighborhood in the past.”
He said culture and literature thrived in Makkah in those days, along with the study of science and the quest for knowledge. The city was therefore a beacon for writers, poets and scientists, and the Saleh Abdulhay Cafe was one of the places where they could gather for intellectual and cultural discussions.
“Among the cultural and intellectual figures that used to go to the writer’s cafe … was the Saudi Minister of Culture Mohammed Abdu Yamani,” he said, adding that such venues were the country’s first literary and cultural forums, where people could gather to discuss literary and intellectual issues.
With his models and exhibition, Al-Hebshi said he wants to depict and preserve this history of day-to-day life and culture in Makkah and Jeddah in days gone by. In addition to the cafe, his models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth.
In particular, he said he wants to immortalize the lives of the intellectuals and writers of the era by documenting their daily lives, the ways in which people interacted with them and how neighborhoods such as Misfalah developed as important cultural centers.
So far he has spent three years building his models of cafes, shops, houses and public squares. He has completed four and is working on a fifth. The task requires hard work and patience, he said. For example, it requires great effort to accurately recreate in miniature the rawasheen, the elaborately patterned wooden window frames found in old buildings in Makkah and Jeddah that maximize natural light and air flow. Great accuracy is required throughout the model making process when it comes to the sizes, dimensions and scale.
“One meter in real life is 10 centimeters in the models,” Al-Hebshi said, which represents a scale of one-to-10. “This measure seeks to maintain, as much as possible, the space’s real dimensions.”
The contents of rooms must also be in scale with the building and each other, he explained: “A bottle of Coca-Cola cannot be bigger than a watermelon and so on.” These are all important details in his models, he added, which ensure they are accurate and consistent.
Given the incredible detail and quality of the models, you would be forgiven for thinking Al-Hebshi is a trained carpenter; in fact he is an enthusiastic amateur with a true passion for the craft. Such is his dedication that even hand injuries — and the need for surgery after damaging a finger with a drill — have not kept him from his work for long.

HIGHLIGHT

Abdul Aziz Taher Al-Hebshi says he was inspired by Jeddah’s Old Town and its magnificent Hijazi buildings with rawasheen, beautifully crafted doors, ornate engravings and delicate details, along with the beauty of its landscape and old streets.

He said his model making began after he found some tools that had been abandoned in a carpentry shop, and for materials he used wood and discarded kaftans he found in stores he shopped at. Wood cutting requires great skill, he added, and while he makes most parts of his models, he said he imports some items from abroad to ensure the highest levels of accuracy. For example he buys miniature signs advertising popular international brands such as Pepsi, Miranda and 7-Up, which are difficult to recreate through woodworking.
Al-Hebshi was director of the Agricultural Bank in Jeddah when he was forced to retire in 2006 as a result of a back injury, and he found himself wondering what he could do with his time. A few years earlier he had developed an interest in woodworking but the demands of his job left him with little time to pursue it. A friend who was aware of this suggested he do something with the wood from a large felled neem tree that had been dumped in Jeddah.
“That tree turned out to be the start of me professionally building models,” he said. He added that he was inspired by Jeddah’s Old Town and its magnificent Hijazi buildings with rawasheen, beautifully crafted doors, ornate engravings and delicate details, along with the beauty of its landscape and old streets. The Saudi leadership has put a special focus on the area to showcase its history and splendor and Al-Hebshi said that this has helped him research his detailed designs.
He added that he welcomes all those who wish to visit his house, in Al-Rawdah neighborhood 3, to see his models. He plans to build more to add to his incredible picture of past life in the Kingdom, and the people who helped the country become the nation it is.


Saudi anti-extremism initiative leads the world, says UN expert

Saudi anti-extremism initiative leads the world, says UN expert
Updated 04 August 2021

Saudi anti-extremism initiative leads the world, says UN expert

Saudi anti-extremism initiative leads the world, says UN expert
  • Head of UN Center for Counter-Terrorism ‘impressed by the pioneering research work’ carried out by Kingdom’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology
  • Center’s Gether2 initiative, which aims to raise awareness of the risks of extremism among people with hearing disabilities, singled out for particular praise

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (Etidal) is a “world leader” in pioneering work to prevent and counter violent extremism, according to Jehangir Khan, director of the UN Center for Counter-Terrorism (UNCCT).

“Etidal is a world leader in this field and we are proud of it,” he said during a visit by a UNCCT delegation to Etidal’s headquarters in Riyadh on Tuesday. “We are very pleased … to be able to work closely with the center.

“We are impressed by the pioneering research work you are doing in this field. We have to follow your example on matters in which we need to cooperate.”

Khan in particular highlighted Eitdal’s Gether2 initiative, which aims to raise awareness among people with hearing disabilities of the risks of extremism, saying he had never seen any other initiatives designed to reach people with disabilities in this way.

“I congratulate you on this project and we would like to know more about it,” he said. “As you know, we in the United Nations have specific agencies that deal with matters of concern to people with disabilities from a humanitarian side only, unlike your side, where I think we should see the whole picture.”

The UN delegation was welcomed to the center by Etidal’s secretary-general, Mansour Al-Shammari. During the visit the two sides discussed ways to enhance cooperation in their efforts to prevent and combat terrorism and violent extremism.

The delegation also learned about the center’s monitoring and analysis mechanisms, the techniques it use and the models it is creating and developing, as well as the most prominent advanced technologies in the field.


Saudi Arabia to take part in G20 digital economy event

Photo/Shutterstock
Photo/Shutterstock
Updated 04 August 2021

Saudi Arabia to take part in G20 digital economy event

Photo/Shutterstock
  • Saudi Arabia has realized qualitative achievements in this regard, mainly the unanimous approval of countries on a roadmap to measure and define the digital economy

TRIESTE: Saudi Arabia is taking part in a G20 digital economy event on Aug. 5.
The G20 Digital Economy Ministers Meeting will discuss key issues related to digital transformation ahead of a final communique that will be endorsed by heads of states and governments at the Rome Summit.
It is an extension of the role played by Saudi Arabia during its G20 presidency last year. The Kingdom aims to focus on empowering people, protecting the planet and forming new horizons.
Saudi Arabia has realized qualitative achievements in this regard, mainly the unanimous approval of countries on a roadmap to measure and define the digital economy, in addition to adopting artificial intelligence principles.
Communication and Information Minister Abdullah Al-Swaha is scheduled to take part in the event.
The G20 aims to take the lead in ensuring a swift international response to the COVID-19 pandemic – able to provide equitable, worldwide access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines – while building up resilience to future health-related shocks.
Each G20 presidency includes the organization of ministerial meetings on each of the main focus areas of the forum. These meetings are important opportunities to discuss and further develop issues of international relevance.


Students in Saudi Arabia urged to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments

Students can access the vaccine appointment service via the Sehhaty or Tawakkalna apps. (SPA)
Students can access the vaccine appointment service via the Sehhaty or Tawakkalna apps. (SPA)
Updated 04 August 2021

Students in Saudi Arabia urged to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments

Students can access the vaccine appointment service via the Sehhaty or Tawakkalna apps. (SPA)
  • Only fully jabbed pupils allowed to return to the classroom

JEDDAH: Students aged 12-18 are being urged to book their first COVID-19 jab, with the Ministry of Health saying that appointments were available for them.

The appointment allocation follows the Kingdom’s announcement that only fully jabbed pupils could return to the classroom when the new school year begins.
Students must receive the first shot before Aug. 8 in order to have the second before the first semester of the new academic year. The specified period between the two doses is three weeks.
They can access the appointment service through the Sehhaty or Tawakkalna apps.
The ministry also said that a quarter of the Kingdom’s population was fully vaccinated. The total number of people who have been jabbed in the country is 28,033,852, including 1,488,193 who are elderly.

FASTFACTS

• Saudi Arabia reported 1,075 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

• The death toll has risen to 8,270 following 11 more virus-related fatalities.

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday reported 11 more COVID-19-related deaths, taking the death toll to 8,270. There were 1,075 new cases reported, increasing the total number of infections to 528,952. There are 10,575 active cases, of which 1,433 are critical.
Of the newly recorded cases, 209 were in Makkah, 188 were in the Eastern Province, 184 were in Riyadh, and 70 were in Madinah. There have been a further 1,113 recoveries, bringing this total to 510,107.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted more 25.33 million PCR tests, with 110,254 carried out in the past 24 hours.
Testing hubs and treatment centers throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual. Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.
Appointments for both services can be made on Sehhaty.
In Hafr Al-Batin governorate, Tetamman clinics have provided services to 75,310 people so far through three clinics: Hafr Al-Batin Central Hospital, Qaisumah General Hospital, and the Abu Mousa Alashari Health Center.


Efforts to fight global terrorism discussed

Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Nayef Falah al-Hajraf gestures during a news conference at the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) 41st Summit in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia January 5, 2021. (REUTERS)
Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Nayef Falah al-Hajraf gestures during a news conference at the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) 41st Summit in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia January 5, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 04 August 2021

Efforts to fight global terrorism discussed

Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Nayef Falah al-Hajraf gestures during a news conference at the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) 41st Summit in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia January 5, 2021. (REUTERS)
  • The council focuses on enhancing capacities of member states and private organizations in preventing and mitigating the misuse of technological developments by terrorists and extremists

RIYADH: Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajjraf, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), met with Jehangir Khan, director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Center (UNCCT).
During the meeting, they reviewed the efforts of the GCC in combating terrorism.
Al-Hajjraf affirmed the council’s continuous support for the UN in combating crimes of terrorism and extremism, in addition to strengthening their cooperation while achieving security and peace in the world.
A day earlier, Khan met with Dr. Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Rabeeah, adviser at the Royal Court and supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief).
The UN Security Council has adopted additional resolutions, often under Chapter VII, to address new avenues of terrorist financing, including by targeting the nexus between terrorists and organized crime groups and tackling fundraising through kidnapping for ransom.
The council focuses on enhancing capacities of member states and private organizations in preventing and mitigating the misuse of technological developments by terrorists and extremists.