Hasnaa Ali

Hasnaa Ali

Journalist

International leadership appointments mark dual win for Saudi women

While a spate of top-down decisions have been driving the Kingdom’s agenda for women empowerment, Saudi women in power themselves are pushing this agenda to greater ambitions and impact. In a dual and significant win, Saudi Tamader Al Rammah and Basmah bint Abdulaziz Al-Mayman have landed high-level international roles.

Al Rammah, an accomplished businesswoman and currently, the Saudi deputy minister of Labor and Social development, was elected to the board of the United Nations’ CEDWA’s specialized committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Al Rammah’s election to the board took place during the committee’s meeting at the UN’s New York headquarters.

Meanwhile, Basmah bint Abdulaziz Al-Mayman, chairwoman at Global United Centre for Research and Analysis and director at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), will also take on a leadership role at the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization). Al-Mayman was appointed as UNWTO’s regional director for the Middle East, the first Saudi and GCC official to take on this high-level role at the organization.

First movers

On her twitter account, Al Rammah expressed her pride with her new CEDAW role and remit, writing: “I’d like to thank my supportive nation and the Saudi UN delegation in New York for their continuous efforts in the last two years. Congratulations to our precious Kingdom, and to our future achievements”.

Al Rammah’s election is making headlines only a few months after her landmark appointment as the Saudi deputy minister of Labor and Social Development – the first deputy ministerial appointment for and the highest position reached by Saudi women in the Kingdom to date.

At the time, Al Rammah’s appointment came under a slew of royal orders issued on February 26, 2018, considered by many as a move to elevate Saudi youth to leadership positions across sectors, most notably, in economic and security fields.

Many also considered Al Rammah’s appointment to be a step closer to Saudi women taking on the “minister” role, in light of successive decisions taken by the Kingdom’s political leadership to reinstate their rights – chief among which, the right to drive, to access sports stadiums, to broaden their participation in artistic and sports events, and to process governmental paperwork sans guardian consent.

Al Rammah is no stranger to international organizations and developmental work. She spoke at the 56th convention for the UN’s Committee on Social Development, showcasing the Saudi National Vision 2030’s key pillars: a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and an ambitious nation.

During her talk, Al Rammah said that the Saudi National Transformation Program 2020 was designed to raise the participation and economic empowerment of Saudi society members, particularly of women, in the country’s workforce. Equally, she added, it worked toward the inclusion of people with disabilities, and the wider contribution of Saudi families in the local economy.

International competition

Al-Mayman’s UNWTO appointment was the result of an international competition by the organization, which saw the participation of high-level officials from across the world.

Al-Mayman’s nomination was a joint decision by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in recognition of her 16-year experience in international organizations and affairs – including a number of trainings and courses. She had also represented the Kingdom for the Middle East region at the UNWTO’s ST-EP (Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty Initiative), and had partaken in a number of regional and international conventions.

The decision to recommend Al-Mayman to represent the Kingdom, the SCTH said, is a statement to and proof of its belief in competence as the baseline behind international nominations and qualifications. The Kingdom has been a member of the UN’s World Tourism Organization since 2003, and an active contributor to a number of critical decisions by the organization. Saudi leadership also directly endorsed the organization. In recognition of this support, the organization honored Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the SCTH, for his role in the development of domestic, regional and international tourism in September.

Eradicating discrimination

CEDAW, which stands for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms Of Discrimination against Women, is a treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979, and ratified in September 1981. It was signed by over 189 nations, making it the largest official reference and documentation on international women’s rights.

The treaty was designed around the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women – including the fight against sex trafficking – and around the protection of their social rights, political participation, and equality in marriage, in family life, and in law. Based on this treaty, a UN committee was set up with the same goal, particularly with the remit of closely monitoring reports by signing nations and members, and their compliance with the treaty’s stipulations and charter. Al Rammah is now a member of this committee.

The committee also submits a yearly report before the United Nations general assembly, and presents member nations with general recommendations pertaining to their compliance with the CEDAW treaty. To this end, it also holds the right to suggest amendments it sees fit and necessary to enforce this compliance.

Shifting perceptions

In recent months, Saudi Arabia’s reformative push and changing perceptions on women’s rights and state of affairs were lauded by a number of international authorities and stakeholders, particularly for their impact on women’s inclusion in the workforce and a gender-neutral economy for the Kingdom.

In April, Saudi Arabia was elected as a member to the executive council of the UN Commission on the Status of Women for the 2019-2021 term, and this, for the third time in its history; the Kingdom had been previously elected to the same role and membership for the first time in the 2011-2013 term, and for the second time in the 2014-2016 term.

Saudi Arabia’s membership election was the result of a voting process that took place during the UN Social and Economic Council meetings in New York on April 17 – and equally, a due recognition by the organization of the Kingdom’s progress on gender equality. The UN Commission on the Status of Women had previously issued a statement in September 2017 welcoming Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to drive, affirming that it was a step closer to and a milestone for real gender equality in the Kingdom.

Women in this article

Tumder bint Yousef Al-Rumah is the Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs in Saudi Arabia.

Official at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, recently appointed as the Middle East Director for the UNWTO

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