By Arab News
By Frank Kane
Princess Reema bint Bandar made an eloquent plea for gender equality as a driving force for economic change in the Kingdom during her address at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Thursday.
Saudi Arabia was advancing the cause of women “because it’s necessary for our nation from an economic point of view, and also from the holistic nature of how you want a family to actually function as a family if you’re constantly segregating family members. It just doesn’t work that way,” the princess said.
“We’re not doing gender equality because the West wants it, or because it will target Human Rights Watch and get them off our backs, or because Amnesty International is going to say ‘great, good job you.’ We’re doing it because it is right,” she said.
Princess Reema, who last year became the first woman to head a Saudi sports body, said sport, culture and entertainment were at the heart of the drive to improve the quality of life in the Kingdom.
She accused the world’s media of double standards in covering the Saudi transformation. “There is a determination not to allow us to create a new narrative. My question is, why? You ask us to change, and then when we exhibit change, you come to us with cynicism.
“I find it so destructive on a daily basis, and detrimental to the women I’m trying to inspire.
“But you have to understand that we’re not working for anybody outside this nation, we’re working for the women of this nation, for the men of our nation, for the evolution to where we need to be, and that’s how we will benefit youth, that’s how we’ll be a global player.
“However, you all have to understand something in this room. A behavioral shift does not happen overnight. Sometimes economic factors drive it, like sometimes you need the money so you let your daughter go to work.
“That was our reality perhaps five years ago, but today the mind shift necessary is: There’s value in this woman, there’s value in her contribution to the community, there’s value in her voice and the decisions she helps make, for a more balanced economy and a more balanced society.
“Perhaps you just have not heard our voices before. Today the introduction of the woman may seem like an anomaly or novelty across the world, and in Saudi Arabia, but we’ve been there. Where we have been is the silent partner, but today we’re being given the opportunity and platform to be more present and more relevant.
“I hope you don’t think I’m the only woman in Saudi Arabia that feels this way or is working toward this. I actually represent the thousands of women who are a lot more competent and qualified than I am. All I can hope for is to do them justice while I’m here.
“These are women who are already in the Shoura Council, already in the municipalities, already have PhDs, that took more work and longer than the time I’ve been alive. It is sad for me that those women are not shown and they are not showcased. I really hope you’ll take the opportunity to see that they exist.”