Several Saudi women coming from different walks of life met with Federica Mogherini, the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, who is currently leading an EU team to the Kingdom, on Tuesday.
The women shared their experiences in handling top jobs. They explained how the Kingdom was moving forward to achieve its 2030 vision. Both sides also discussed methods of cooperation for exchanging culture and knowledge.
Lama Al-Sulaiman, a JCCI board member, noted that the European citizens need to know more about Saudi society and blamed the foreign media for playing a negative role by stereotyping the Saudi society and particularly, the status of Saudi women. The Western media, she urged, should be accurate while reporting instead of promoting biased information.
The participants in the meeting broadly concurred that the higher authorities in the Kingdom are pro-women and that there is a wave of change that the country is witnessing, allowing women to claim the space they deserve. However, there is a segment of the society that is still resisting change, posing a challenge to women in their pursuit of advancement.
Among the participants was Rasha Hifzi, a member of the municipal council, who spoke about the struggles she undertook to be allowed to sit side by side with men in the municipal council meetings. “It was me against 29 men,” she said adding that there is a plan to restructure the council to serve the public in a better way. However, she as a woman, faces problems at various levels.
Basma Al-Omair, head of Khadija Bin Khuwailid, spoke about the role the center plays in supporting women and noted that they have compiled statistics to monitor the views of the society regarding women empowerment. She noted that according to their findings a large portion of the society is supportive of women and noted that the social media does not really represent what goes on in society. She added that 20 percent of the JCCI manpower are women.
Sofana Dahlan, a lawyer and founder of the Saudi National Creative Initiative, shared her experience of obtaining a license to practice, which took years before she finally got it. She added that it was possible only after a royal decree that allowed women to obtain lawyer licenses. Prior to the decree, she used to visit Riyadh on a regular basis for a followup on her file. Now, she renews her license in her home city, Jeddah. Speaking about the cooperation between the EU and Kingdom she suggested that culture and art are great fields where they can cooperate and exchange experiences.
More awareness and education is needed, said Lama, in order to allow youth to plan for the jobs they shall seek for future rather than sticking to the traditional jobs, like teaches and doctors.
Originally published on Saudi Gazette