CEO Middle East
Her Royal Highness Princess Lamia Bint Majed Saud Al-Saud tells Jola Chudy about Alwaleed Philantrophies vision for Saudi Arabia
As a high-profile female leader, how do you not only inspire, but support and champion the path of women into leadership positions?
I truly believe that for people who are fortunate to be in leadership positions, there is a duty to tackle the barriers that hinder the next generation from reaching their full potential. Unfortunately, we have seen the devastating impact of the pandemic on female employment. Surprisingly, women make up 39 per cent of global employment but account for 54 per cent of overall job losses1. However, I believe that women hold a truly vital position in successful post-pandemic recovery plans.
As Saudi Arabia marks its 90th National Day during a period of intense change, how are women being elevated to more leadership and management positions in Saudi Arabia?
In Saudi Arabia, women are expected to play a key role in the country’s development strategy, Vision 2030. In doing so, it has been widely recognised that female participation in the economy, health, education and Government is crucial. We have already made great strides with more women than ever holding leadership and managerial positions, in addition to the policy reforms that granted greater freedom for all women across the country.
Throughout the last 40 years, Alwaleed Philanthropies has supported and initiated projects to empower women across Saudi Arabia. We have seen how education-led initiatives and access to resources have provided greater economic and employment opportunities and have greatly supported women reaching their professional goals. For example, through our Waeya Legal Initiative, we trained female lawyers and promoted greater awareness of legal rights for all women across the country. The initiative was able to support women in the legal field, while simultaneously supporting
vulnerable women through greater access to legal counsel. This is something we are passionate about, by encouraging and enabling more women into leadership roles, we can empower all women.
Therefore, our support must be actionled. As Secretary General of Alwaleed Philanthropies, it has been paramount for our programmes to empower women through greater access to resources, increased training opportunities, and the promotion of entrepreneurship. Additionally, we believe research and collaboration is vital to develop pathways to elevate women and overcome barriers. To further understand the barriers women face, in 2019 Alwaleed Philanthropies collaborated with UN Women, General Authority of Statistics, and King Saud University, to measure the first Saudi female participation in social and economic development study. This revealed the challenges facing Saudi women through social, economic, health and educational lenses. Continuously working with partners to identify the challenges women face enables us to develop strategies on how to increase female participation, and ultimately improve gender equality across a variety of sectors.
How important is women’s changing role in Saudi society?
The role of women in Saudi society is incredibly important. There has never been a more crucial time for us to ensure that women, and youth, are given the resources and tools they need to contribute to a better and healthier world. We continue to see a wide variety of opportunities made available for women in the last five years, whether Saudi women being recognised on the global stage in industries from engineering to design, or women holding more positions in Government and creating greater opportunities for the next generation.
I am particularly passionate about employment for women and youth. If we look at employment opportunities that are created through greater access to education and resources, we see how women are already shaping the socio-cultural expectations of the next generation. This will have a knock-on impact as women and youth are further empowered to seek opportunities for growth and to change their communities and our society. For example, through our partnership with Careem, with whom we launched Careem Captainahs, we can see how access to a car dramatically improves the employment opportunities for women. Access to transport allows women to feel empowered, it allows them to support their families and it enables them to meet their goals.
Society is shaped by the social, cultural and economic boundaries that guide how we live. There can be no doubt that the changing role of women in Saudi Arabia has a positive impact on all people in the country.
Celebrating this special day, what are the key areas of focus in terms of philanthropy and sustainable development for Alwaleed Philanthropies (which itself marked 40 years in 2020)?
HRH: I am incredibly privileged to be leading Alwaleed Philanthropies and am incredibly proud of the work we deliver and the role we play in promoting philanthropy in the region and across the globe. This year marks our 40th anniversary. In that time, we have led and delivered projects in more than 189 countries with our work reaching and benefiting more than one billion people across the world.
We focus on four key pillars which guide the work that we do. We work with partners to develop communities, empower women and youth, provide disaster relief and build cross-cultural bridges. It is humbling to see the effect of our work and to know that our partnerships and initiatives have improved the quality of life for people in the Kingdom. Just some of the many examples include:
* Improving access to transport for women through our partnership with Careem. We pledged 100 cars to the Careem Captainahs initiative to support women in seeking equal opportunities for employment. We also supported the Harakia initiative which improves the quality of life for people with lower disabilities by providing adapted cars. These cars empower individuals and give them a sense of independence that many of us take for granted.
* Supporting sustainable economic independence for women through the promotion of cultural preservation and craftsmanship. We have a long history of working with the Turquoise Mountain Institute to provide artisans, particularly women, with artistic, technical and economic opportunities. We have successfully supported women with access to new markets, training and commercial opportunities. Through this initiative, we have seen the meaningful impact on women across Afghanistan, Myanmar and Saudi Arabia.
* We allocated $30 million to support communities across the Middle East and Africa in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are committed to supporting vulnerable communities through wideranging initiatives. Working in partnership with the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO), we are providing economic opportunities across Africa. With UN Habitat we are ensuring adequate housing in areas of conflict and we are supporting a therapeutics accelerator with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Our diverse response highlights our mission to provide vital resources in times of need while simultaneously empowering communities to ensure a stronger and healthier future.
AB: Alwaleed Philanthropies does vital work in the region and Saudi Arabia. With the country’s ambitious 2030 Vision making news, how important is it for organisations such as Alwaleed Philanthropies to align with goals for development, infrastructure, economic growth and so forth?
HRH: Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision is an ambitious yet achievable blueprint, it expresses our long-term goals and expectations and, I believe, reflects our country’s strengths and capabilities. At Alwaleed
Philanthropies, we strongly believe in the importance of partnership and collaboration to make real and long-term impact. With all projects and initiatives that we are part of and that we lead, we ensure that they will have a positive and lasting effect on our community and our country. In understanding the power of partnership, we believe it is vital for all organisations to work together to meet the goals set out by Vision 2030. In doing so, we encourage organisations throughout the Kingdom to reflect this mission in their work.
We have a duty to contribute to the development of our own communities and country, through the actions of individuals and organisations we can build a better, healthier and more vibrant society allowing each and every one of us to prosper.