Kingdom’s 80 programs benefit 62 million people

LEADING BY EXAMPLE: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre’s workers distributing 4,000 food baskets in the areas of Mashrah and Hadnan and villages surrounding them in Yemen’s Taiz governorate.
Updated 24 July 2016

Kingdom’s 80 programs benefit 62 million people

RIYADH: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief) has taken up 29 programs in urgent humanitarian assistance for the people of Yemen, benefiting 17.7 million people at a cost of $193 million, a report issued by the center said.

Adviser to the Royal Court and General Supervisor of the KSrelief Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Rabiah will formally launch the fifth report on Wednesday about the center’s humanitarian and health services that were provided to Yemenis and their family members in the Kingdom and outside.
A photo exhibition at the event will document the center’s history since inception in 2015 and which will showcase its report card on at least 80 humanitarian and aid programs, benefiting 62 million people at a cost of $416 million so far.
Programs under KSrelief included the Safinat Darb Al-Khair program, which cost $5.2 million and benefited 600,000 people and the food security program in Taiz, costing $1.3 million and also assisted 600,000 people. A $4.394 million food security program also covered Al-Dalea, Lahaj and Abin provinces, helping 600,000 people, while food security programs valued at 3.173 million dollars were also offered in Marib, Hadramout, Al-Mahra, and Shabwa, helping upwards of 600,000 people.
The ceremony includes a number of activities, including a speech by Dr. Al-Rabiah, the minister of local governance and the ministers of health and housing. The ceremony will also include a presentation on the services provided to injured Yemeni citizens, and a forum with the participation of the Yemeni health minister, the representative of the office of the United Nations for Humanitarian Affairs, the director of medical assistance at the center, and one of the wounded Yemeni citizens.
A project to complete food security needs in in Al-Wadea port, to assist 100,000 stranded people was offered, costing $228,000, while a food security program valued at $4.1 million included 100,000 food baskets and helped 600,000 people in Sanaa.
Other assistance programs included distribution of 218,250 sacrificial lambs in Hadramout, Al-Mahra, Shabwa and Marib, costing $900,000 and benefiting 217,250 people.
The costs of food security programs reached $141,248,945 and benefited 10.4 million people in total, while the participation in the United Nations Flash Appeal program for Yemen in April 2015 cost $8 millions. The food aid project in Shabwa cost an additional $352,014, and included 128 tons of dates distributed to 103,800 people.
At least 22 tons of medical equipment and medicines, 40 tons of dates, and 6,000 food baskets were distributed to 50,000 people in Saada, while food and medical assistance delivered via air drops to Taiz were valued at $203,534 and included 30 tons of food and 15 tons of medical supplies and drugs for 100,000 people.

Tearing down the wall: Saudi restaurants adjust to the abolishment of gender segregation

Updated 28 January 2020

Tearing down the wall: Saudi restaurants adjust to the abolishment of gender segregation

  • New law urges restaurants to remove segregation in entrance and separate seating arrangements
  • Many restaurants have already begun to implement the law, but others stubbornly refuse

RIYADH: Saudi diners are still chewing over the Kingdom’s move to end the long-standing legal requirement for restaurants to have separate entrances for males and families.

As a result of reforms — involving 103 rules and regulations, manuals, models, and standards aimed at making life easier for citizens and visitors — men and women no longer have to enter restaurants through separate doors.

Naif Al-Otaibi, general manager of public relations and media at the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, said gender-segregation was now a matter of choice.

“It’s optional. We did not specify the number of entry points, so the investor is free to have multiple entry points and segregate (males from females) in their restaurant,” he told Arab News.

Many restaurants and cafes in Saudi Arabia, including American coffee chain Starbucks, typically have separate sections for families (women on their own or accompanied by men) and males.

The AlShaya Group, operator of Starbucks, The Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s among others, has said it will end gender segregation in stores and eateries that were opened before the new rule came into effect.

“We at Alshaya are planning to transform the old stores’ designs following the new desegregation law, but that will take place over the course of the next two years,” the company told Arab News.

An employee at one of Starbucks’ gender-segregated outlets said maintenance contractors had recently conducted an inspection of the site with a view to commencing remodeling work. “They will take out the wall that separates the male area from the families section,” the staff member told Arab News.

“They will also remove the signs at the entry points that say, ‘families’ and ‘males’ and merge the two separate sections.”

Just a few years ago all of this was unthinkable in a very different Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom had a strict policy of not allowing women to dine in a restaurant without a mahram (male guardian). They would be turned away if they did not comply with the rule.

Recalling an incident that happened 20 years ago, “D.K.,” a 37-year-old Saudi woman who wished to remain anonymous, said she found herself inside one of the white vehicles belonging to the religious police whose official job description was the “prevention of vice and promotion of virtue.”

She had been dining with her friends at a McDonald’s restaurant without a mahram.

But D.K. is amazed by the changes that have taken place since, and said the ending of gender segregation in restaurants was a huge step forward for the Kingdom.

She praised King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for advancing women’s empowerment by increasing their employment opportunities, enhancing the quality of their social life and expanding their personal freedoms.

While these steps might seem unimpressive to the average person in the West, cumulatively they were opening up the Kingdom in a big way, D.K. told Arab News, though she admitted that some conservative sections of Saudi society still wished to see the continuation of gender segregation in restaurants.

However, most restaurant owners were eager to move with the changing times.

Al-Amin Mahmoud, a 35-year-old father-of-four from Madinah, takes his family every weekend to a different restaurant. While in Jeddah on a short vacation, he faced a problem when he discovered that some restaurants did not have separate sections for males and families.

“I respect that decision, but I did not feel comfortable. I knew that the decision had been implemented. However, for me, having grown up in a conservative family and society, it does not suit me,” he told Arab News.

Father-of-three Habib Saleh, 41, said that businesses had the option to accept or reject the gender-desegregation decision.

“This is akin to the decision to ban sheesha from restaurants. Many people objected, saying smoking sheesha was the main reason they frequented the restaurants in the first place. Some restaurants who implemented the rule naturally lost regular customers, which affected their revenue,” he added.

Saleh pointed out that when considering applying the new rules, some business owners faced the same dilemma of having to be prepared to lose some customers.

“It will take time before people get used to it. Of course, people will either reject it or be suspicious about it at first. And we have to keep in mind that some of the people who are objecting to this decision do not mind eating in mixed restaurants when they are abroad. So, there is some amount of contradiction. 

“We have to remember that the segregation rule was in force for more than 30 years, so don’t think that people will accept it quickly,” he said.

For his part, Abdulrahman Al-Harbi, an architect, believes implementing the desegregation law will improve the bottom lines of restaurants in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Harbi said not only would managing a restaurant become easier but construction bills would also shrink. “I prefer open spaces. A good designer can provide clever privacy solutions to customers in different ways. 

“If we want to call ourselves a civilized society, we must get used to a mixed-gender environment,” he added.

Abdul Aziz Al-Qahtani, the owner of Bicicleta Coffee Shop in Riyadh, said that since opening a new branch in the capital’s U Walk, only one cashier counter was required.

“We had customers coming in and asking for separate sections, but we have to keep pace with development,” he said. “This change in the law has reduced costs in many areas for us. Now we don’t need two cashiers to serve a family section and a male section.

“We also don’t have to have large spaces any more to be able to divide it up into two sections.”