Saudi Arabia: Al Janadriyah festival on IWD lends focus to women's role and value in nation building Print E-mail

  Monday March 20, 2017

Saudi women become changemakers

A country that is immensely proud of its culture, tradition and faith, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia values the significant role that women play in society. The robust inclusion of women in active worklife is a core component of the Saudi government's Vision 2030.

By Saud M. Al-Sati
ON THE ROLL: A Saudi woman films using her mobile in the first-ever Comic-Con event in Jeddah, last month. AFP

RECENTLY, under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and earlier under the late Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdallah bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia has rolled out a series of women-friendly initiatives. These have established an enabling environment for women and helped to expand their participation in public life.Women in Saudi Arabia are drivers of the change we see today: participating in our workforce; leading multi-national corporations and becoming the champion of education, health, financial and other sectors.

According to recent reports, there is a sound economic argument around the collaboration between women and men that can benefit our GDP by over $50 billion by 2025. The Kingdom's aim is to have women account for 30 per cent of the workforce in the coming years, an increase from the current 22 per cent. In fact, according to the latest figures from Saudi Arabia's Central Department of Statistics and Information, since 2010 the number of women employed in Saudi Arabia has increased by 48 per cent.

The financial sector, in particular, is experiencing noteworthy developments. Sarah Al-Suhaimi was appointed the first-ever woman to chair the Saudi stock exchange in February. She has established herself as a force to reckon with, Al-Suhaimi held various key positions in investment firms, finally taking charge of the stock exchange. Rania Nashar, was named the Chief Executive of the Samba Financial Group, becoming the first CEO of a listed commercial bank in Saudi Arabia.

Education has been at the core of Saudi Arabia's national policy agenda. The Kingdom has always offered an encouraging environment for women to explore careers in the academic fields. Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University at Riyadh is the largest women's university in the world. It bears testimony to Saudi Arabia's committement towards women's education and excellence.

We take pride in women achievers from our nation who have made great strides towards realising their professional ambitions by creating a niche for themselves globally. Dalal Moheealdin Namnaqani, an educator in medicine, has become the first Saudi woman to be appointed the dean of a university in which she supervises both male and female faculties. Mona Al Munajjed, another significant name in academics, is Saudi Arabia's foremost sociologist. She has been instrumental in formulating several social development field projects. For these, she received the UN-21 Award for Excellence, outstanding coordination and individual productivity in 2005. There are many other women who have earned international accolades for their pivotal contribution to education, research, healthcare and science.

We are proud of Hayat bint Sulaiman bin Hassan Sindi, a Saudi Arabian scientist. She was appointed Emerging Explorer by National Geographic in 2011. In 2012, she became a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for science education. She has served at the UN Secretary-General's Scientific Advisory Board. Among the innovations Sindi has developed are a diagnostic tool used for the early detection of breast cancer and the Magnetic Acoustic Resonance Sensor (MARS).

Khawla S. Al-Khuraya, another distinguished name in the field of medical research, is a Saudi Onco specialist and professor of pathology. Al-Khuraya is well known for identifying the FOSM1 gene, which prompts the human body to form cancer cells. She was the first Saudi woman to receive the Order of Abdulaziz al Saud in 2010 for her cancer research. It is a matter of pride for us to see our country making incredible progress to further education and expand opportunities for women. According to data from “The Global Gender Gap Report 2014,” released by the World Economic Forum, Saudi Arabia now has an astonishing female literacy rate of 91per cent ­ an unheard of feat in many nations across the world. Essentially, almost 52 per cent of the graduates in Saudi Arabia are women. The government's focus on women's education has had various positive effects. It has led to a noteworthy reduction in fertility and mortality rates, improved health and nutrition tables. As metioned earlier, it has led to an increase and involved participation in public life. Tens of thousands of scholarships to study abroad are provided to the women of Saudi Arabia every year. A recent achievement that gave me great pleasure was that of Somayya Jabarti, who took over the role of the first woman Editor-in-Chief of the English daily Saudi Gazette.

For Saudi Arabia, it was an important, defining moment in 2013, when ­ for first time in the kingdom's history ­ 30 women became a part of the Shura Council, a 150-member advisory body. In a landmark municipal election in 2015, four women were elected from Makkah, Jawf and Tabuk.

Recently, Women's Day was celebrated in Saudi Arabia with a gathering held at the King Fahd Cultural Centre. During the same time, the kingdom also celebrated the national cultural festival, Al Janadriyah ­ showcasing tradition, culture and the blend with modernity through creativity and ingenuity of the people. This year's Al Janadriyah festival devoted some programmes to focus on women's role and value in nation building.

The government is leading a host of successful initiatives in gender empowerment and cultural development. Participation of women in the socio-economic structure remains the focus of the government today. A number of initiatives above are being undertaken for the promotion of participation and involvement of women in all walks of life in our country.

The writer is Ambassador, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to India