The Kingdom triumphs when empowered women shape their destiny
When considering the impact of women empowerment initiatives, the focus is often on increasing the number of women in leadership positions and closing pay gaps.
It is time to move away from outdated markers of success and rethink women’s empowerment, finding out what it means to them and cultivating solutions that explore their unique needs.
Women across the world are united in seeking socioeconomic and educational empowerment. The division, however, lies in individual needs and widely varying circumstances. Therefore, empowerment and culture must be cohesively considered when considering what women need.
Saudi Arabia has continuously paid attention to the disparities by creating initiatives and funds bolstered by Vision 2030 in various fields. The efforts have shown progress as the Kingdom is one of the countries that improved in the region compared to 2021, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2022.
Laying a strategic roadmap to offer women a means to stimulate economic growth and create a legacy beyond their generations has positioned women to play a vital role in developing the Kingdom and its community. Rewards reaped include the provision of opportunities for success and excellence across sectors.
With the Kingdom revealing a positive increase in the gender gap scores for labor force participation between 2021 and 2022 and registering as one of the countries with the most progress, most countries in the region saw a decline. The Monsha’at Quarterly Report revealed that the Kingdom has successfully bridged the gender gap in small- and medium-sized enterprises, with 45 percent female leaders in the sector.
The landscape is changing; women are fast finding themselves at the helm of driving the economy. As a result, there are more opportunities to improve the empowerment of the individual to achieve equal opportunities and emerge as the new wave of social change for all women in the Kingdom.
Window of opportunities
Under Vision 2030, there has been further amplification and support for the long-standing efforts to boost the Kingdom’s economy and create a more sustainable society where women are active contributors.
The relentless commitment to creating job opportunities, helping communities acquire the means to a better living, and engaging them in activities has become more pertinent to economic growth and prosperity.
Embracing the pillars of the National Transformation Program, organizations have committed to launching initiatives that enhance socioeconomic development adopted by all sectors.
Innovation and creativity are the most notable initiative for future generations of Saudi women, creating a network that encourages and facilitates sharing skills and readily available resources.
There are many opportunities for Saudi women and girls from different communities and educational backgrounds to support them in gaining expertise across agile sectors.
One example is Community Jameel Saudi’s most recent partnership with the Arabian Coffee Institute. The initiative addresses the need for skill development in the food and beverage industry, namely coffee. It presents an opportunity for women who have expressed an interest in seeking a job in coffee production but do not have the expertise required. However, solutions must factor in that they are not one-size-fits-all and should be tailored to the local culture’s specificity.
Take, for instance, the creative industries, a sector flourishing thanks to the work of the Ministry of Culture. The role of the creative industry now extends beyond the borders of cultural preservation and societal enrichment to the epicenter of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product. It is similar to the anticipated increase in employment of skilled workers in F&B due to the new partnership.
According to the Kingdom’s General Authority for Statistics, Saudi Arabia’s citizen unemployment has been at an all-time low since 2008. Community Jameel Saudi’s way of helping to improve this is through its employment, training and financing programs.
The newly refreshed Human Capability Development Program continues to drive upskilling, development of learning opportunities and provision and support in innovation and entrepreneurship.
Bab Rizq Jameel’s microfinance program has provided micro-loans valued at SR2.5 billion to over 1,000 micro and small enterprises since its inauguration in 2018. Saudi women now comprise 33.6 percent of the workforce as of March 2022, from 17.4 percent five years ago due to the Kingdom’s continuous support of such programs.
Thus, breaking down the barriers allows space for creativity and innovation to drive transformative social change and enable another form of employment. Creativity transcends the traditional way of thinking, while innovation is its implementation that allows women to mobilize the power of change.
The Kingdom’s private sector is a significant beneficiary of the influx of dynamic women workers, with many women entrepreneurs securing new and emerging opportunities in the accommodation and food, wholesale and retail, health, and professional support service industries.
For example, the Nafisa Shams Academy targets unemployed women for its handicraft training programs in sewing, fashion design, cooking and carpet-making, to name a few. Over 17,000 female beneficiaries have participated in the 54 developmental entrepreneurship programs, and more than 918,875 products have been handcrafted since the academy’s launch in 2008. Another 960 women have participated in the Work From Home Program since 2006, long before the pandemic fueled the trend. This program is a testament to another unconventional yet long-standing doorway to self-sustainability and participation in the growth of the Kingdom’s economy.
The more women have an environment that promotes innovation, the more they inspire and cultivate innovation to empower themselves and others. Therefore, Saudi Arabia will continue to work together, supporting women in developing their creativity and talents, investing in their productive capabilities and enabling them to strengthen their future and contribute to the development of the local economy.
The Kingdom is creating a legacy where the current and future generations of women can overcome challenges and contribute to their country’s development.
- Dr. May Taibah is member of the board of trustees at Community Jameel Saudi.