Princess Reema Al-Saud, the first-ever Vice President for Women’s Affairs of the General Sports Authority in Saudi Arabia, is working to persuade the Saudi government to change its discriminatory attitudes towards women in sports. Another advocate of this cause is Raha Moharrak, the first Saudi woman and youngest Arab to climb Mount Everest.
Princess Al-Saud is CEO of the Saudi Arabian luxury retailer Alfa International, a company that works to provide women with more opportunities within its corporate infrastructure, whether by hiring female employees or by providing complimentary daycare and transportation. Although Al-Saud grew up in Washington, D.C. as the daughter of the Saudi ambassador to the United States, she returned to Saudi Arabia in 2008 to campaign for more opportunities for women.
During the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia paraded its athletes across the stadium. The men sported custom-tailored thobes from Lomar and the women wore long, intricately embroidered outfits with dark scarves and ornately decorated traditional headdresses.
In a strategic attempt to educate the world on traditional Saudi textiles and the country’s culturally rich history, Al-Saud and the Women’s Affairs of the General Sports Authority used the Saudi athletes’ uniforms at the Opening Ceremony to showcase the work of the Al Nahda Philanthropic Society.
Standing as the largest and oldest women’s charity in Saudi Arabia, Al Nahda continues to be a charitable resource that helps Saudi women from underserved communities. For over 50 years Al Nahda’s Art of Heritage campaign in Riyadh has helped women grow into independent breadwinners. Their income comes from making garments inspired by Saudi Arabia’s five major and culturally diverse regions.
“All the regions are rich examples of the diverse and remarkable history of our traditional garments,” the nonprofit’s president, Princess Basma bint Majed bin Abdulaziz, told Time. “While we make each and every garment with love—in this case we made them with tremendous national pride as well.”
By adorning themselves with these custom-designed outfits, Saudi Arabia’s female athletes serve as symbols of national pride as well as a source of empowerment for young Saudi women. Moreover, Al-Saud aims to open more avenues and create opportunities across the globe for Saudi women.
Al-Saud continues to strive to create more opportunities for Saudi women in sports. She does this for the benefits of health, physical fitness, and even economic advancement. According to Al-Saud, increasing women’s participation in athletics could open job opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people.
“Keeping our women healthy is a challenge,” Al-Saud told Al Arabiya. “We need to invest for women at a young age. The more the investment, the more the productivity. The goal is to offer women the opportunity to engage more. What exists today is an army of enthusiastic women who understand the value for this country.”
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