Saudi women pleased to be part of a year of change

September 23, 2018

Fatima Muhammad

As Saudi Arabia celebrates the National Day women mark this occasion with much enthusiasm as they take the wheel, enroll in new majors and get new positions in different sectors. Saudi Gazette talked to leading women at different sectors to document the changes happening in 2018.

Women and Human Rights

The year 2018 has witnessed the implementation of transformational decisions announced in 2017 including the lift of ban on woman driving said Amal Almoallimi, assistant to the secretary general of King Abdulaziz Center National Dialogue and Board Member of the Saudi Human Rights Commission. This move was followed by a crucial decision to allow divorced women to get financial aid from the government fund instead of continuous disputes with ex-husbands. Not least, women were given custody of their children until their cases are resolved. “Such a decision will encourage woman to speak up and not to accept living with abusers just because of children,” she explained.

In addition she added women were able to demonstrate a great participation in the sports sector and boost awareness about physical well-being.

A major decision in the favor of women is their enrolment in decision making at the municipality and the Ministry of Labor and Social Development. Women now also participate actively in the labor market as employees and in the economy through their small and medium businesses.

Her wishes for the coming year as the Kingdom celebrates the 89th National Day are to see Saudi women as ministers and ambassadors. “We have qualified women who can take these roles,” she said.

Women in Education

Malak Al-Nouri, the provost at Effat University and Visiting Scholar at Mechanical Engineering Department, MIT, USA, said Women education in Saudi Arabia has been transformed in the past few years to keep up with the anticipated role for women in the ambitious Vision of the country. She noted that many areas of specializations were offered to women in recent years to prepare them for their role. Women have been empowered to effectively participate in the new economy of the Kingdom. This economy is not based on a single source or a single sector (Oil and Gas); rather this economy is diversified and thus more robust. This transformation requires more engineers to look into new sources of energy such as renewable energy. This was one of the majors offered by Effat University to empower women to become part of the sustainable development of the Kingdom. Effat University was the first to predict the need for women engineers and thus offered Engineering major for women since 2005 and recently in 2017 offered a master in energy engineering for women.

Al-Nouri said she feels extremely proud when she sees young Saudi people working in jobs traditionally occupied by non-Saudis. “Even though that sometimes these jobs are simple jobs but climbing the ladder to the top requires that we start from the bottom,” explained Al-Nouri. She added, “This is especially true for Saudi young females who really needed the jobs and the economy really needed their participation but they could not go out and work until recently. When you see the numbers of women who are working all around us now, you realize how much these women needed the jobs and how much change has been put in place to enable them.”

She also highlighted that “The Vision 2030 anticipates that we can increase this up to 30% by 2030 and I believe this is going to happen even before 2030.”

Women in Sports

Razan Baker a member of the board of directors of the Saudi Bowling Federation said women complete the society and by including women in the field of sports this will eventually reflect on the whole society as they tend to influence and encourage their children, family and friends. Luckily, this year Saudi Arabia witnessed a revolution in the field of women in sports in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking about the remarkable changes in the sports sector for women she said first, women were officially appointed in decision making positions. Starting from the appointment of Princess Rima Bint Bandar, vice president of Planning and Development for the General Sports Authority, to the inclusion of women officials in almost all the 64 Saudi sports federations. Women were chosen for managerial positions, and were nominated for board members. They were also given coaches and trainers positions. Second, instead of having only a few private women sports teams now there are many teams spread in the country and under the supervision and support from the sports federations and the GSA. Third, the door was also open for the private sector to open fitness clubs and gyms for women unlike before when it was limited to health centers only. Fourth, schools included physical education classes for females. In addition, public and private women universities are also launching new degrees for physical education for women.

Consequently, this means securing the physical education from early ages and providing healthy lifestyle.

The professional supervision, said Baker, will ensure that the Kingdom will reach its Vision 2030, increase women participation in the society, create job opportunities, and decrease unemployment. “The Kingdom is offering all opportunities, we just need to make the best of them!” said Baker.

Women in the Entertainment Sector

Saudi women have achieved regional international awards for distinguished directors. This includes Haifa Al-Mansour, Faiza Amba, Hind Al-Fahid, Ahad Kamel, Reem Al-Bayat, and Hind AlFasi. The chance is now open for them to expose their works to the Saudi society. Haifa Al-Mansour told AFP earlier that as the Kingdom changes she noted, “It will be wonderful to be part of the evolution of film in the country.”

The entertainment industry is promising to investors yet the Saudi entertainment industry still needs to benefit from the experiences of others and must know that the mission ahead “is not an easy one” said director Osama Al-Kiraiji.

According to Malak Al-Nouri, Effat University offered since 2012 the Visual and Digital Production major, which is a Cinematic Arts with tracks in Production, Screenwriting, Animation, and Interactive Media. “This major is to support the women role in one of the new industries just launched in the Kingdom; the Entertainment Industry.”

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