Woman power to the fore
Al-Aama: I expect more women leaders and decision-makers to step forward
JEDDAH: With an experience of more than 19 years in IT, coupled with a strong educational background in computing, Arwa Al-Aama’s goal is to participate in Saudi Arabia’s technological advancement. As vice mayor at Jeddah municipality’s IT department, she is the first woman to hold a leadership role in IT in a Saudi governmental agency.
Her work has resulted in the municipality winning 8 prestigious awards in IT. She also holds the position of vice mayor for women’s affairs, in which she pursues her second personal goal – empowering Saudi women. In this role, Al-Aama opened up new job opportunities to women in municipal services in the Kingdom and is responsible for improving the quality of municipal services provided to women.
Al-Aama is also a member of the executive committee for the Saudi National eGovernment Plan and the Saudi National Science and Technology Plan. Al-Aama spoke to Arab News about her views on the Kingdom’s development in the next few years.
The following are excerpts from the interview:
What changes will have a major impact on the lives of Saudi nationals within the next 20 years?
We have witnessed many changes over the past three to four years in this country. In the coming period, I expect more female leaders and decision makers to step forward. I also expect more focus on globalization by opening up investment possibilities to foreign investors in the Saudi market. I expect the next generation of women to be stronger and more independent.”
What do you think of current leadership roles in the Kingdom’s various organizations and what are the contributing factors?
We are expecting more educated people and PhD holders to return to the Kingdom, so the competition for the leadership role will be tough. In the past, such a competition hardly existed due to a lack of candidates with a PhD or Masters degree. I think the standards for choosing a leader will be much higher and developed. Leadership will not be exclusive to certain groups. For example, the appointment of Adel Fakeih as labor minister indicates a change in skills that are now expected of a leader. Fakeih came from the private sector and then he worked in the government sector. This is why he understands the needs of merchants, citizens and government employees.
What are the most difficult challenges that need to be met with in the Kingdom within the next 20 years?
I think the difficulty will lie in how to convince society about any new decision. For example, any changes affecting the role of women are always difficult to become accepted and implemented. Our experience in the municipality is a model story. We faced difficulties when all people refused our work in the municipality, but when we did a great job and won many awards, the male employees started to believe in the importance of our contribution. Today, about four departments called for the employment of women. All in all, women have to work as well as men within the framework of Islamic law.
Can you give an example of a creative project you would like to establish in the Kingdom?
I would like to change the communication management system. Each government sector has its own system with a high budget. Building such a system requires a lot of time and money. For example, we paid SR9 million and dedicated 18 months to implement this system. The government wastes billion of riyals and a lot of time on these management communication systems. I would like to set up a company that creates this system and distributes it to other sectors for free.
KSA in three words
What three words would you use to describe the Kingdom in the next 20 years and why?
I would describe Saudi Arabia as an Islamic lighthouse, a lighthouse for civilization and as the Kingdom of the Two Holy Mosques. I chose these descriptions because I want the Kingdom to guide people. I believe the Kingdom should be a beacon to other countries. Actually, we have Islamic rules and we implement some of them, but we don’t fully enjoy Islamic morals. For example, we want to deal with corruption and even get rid of it in consonance with Islamic rules. We should then also put an end to bad streets, and the marriage of underage girls and many other violations. Once we eliminate these, the Kingdom would be truly an Islamic and a lighthouse to civilization.
Responsibility of officials
What characteristics do you think are important for officials in the Kingdom and how would these characteristics contribute toward the Kingdom’s further development?
Enjoning the Islamic morals and implementing them is the most important characteristic that each leader should have. Characteristics that each leader should have include understanding people’s backgrounds, accepting others’ ethics, respecting people’s culture and knowing very well what a leader should be doing. Leaders should also have a great love for their country.
How can we improve on human rights in Saudi Arabia and what are your expectations in this field for the next 20 years?
In the next 20 years, Saudi nationals will make more progress in the human rights field. I would like to shift this responsibility to a ministry. Such an initiative would certainly change things. In the Kingdom, a large number of divorce cases are pending in court. Children’s rights are also ignored in most divorce cases. Marrying off little girls is also a violation of human rights, and these phenomena must be stopped. I expect much improvement in solving problems related to workers’ rights. Minister of Labor Adel Fakeih is working hard to ensure the rights of citizens and expatriates.
What is the biggest challenge facing the Kingdom today?
The Kingdom is too big and it has many different backgrounds and culture. The biggest challenge is to satisfy the society as a whole.
What are the most prominent economic activities in the Kingdom and what are neglected sectors that need to be developed?
The most active sectors in the Kingdom are food and textiles. In contrast, the most neglected sectors are health clubs for women. We need a ministry to allow investment opportunities in the health clubs and gym sectors. We also need to have permission to establish institutions and training centers. Unfortunately, many Saudi students return from abroad carrying certificates in rare fields that are still neglected in the Saudi market, so they can’t use their expertise. I would also like to create institutions to train Saudis for different careers and boost Saudization. Saudis would be happy to prepare themselves for a career in official institutions.
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