Saudi Arabia develops 23 initiatives to serve, support people with disabilities

Tamader Al-Rammah, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of labor and social development, said the Kingdom is preparing a national strategy featuring 23 initiatives for people with disabilities. (AN File Photo)
Updated 13 June 2018
0

Saudi Arabia develops 23 initiatives to serve, support people with disabilities

  • Saudi Arabia is preparing a national strategy featuring 23 initiatives for people with disabilities
  • The Ministry of Labor and Social Development will develop a national program for the diagnosis and classification of disabilities

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is preparing a national strategy featuring 23 initiatives for people with disabilities, in addition to developing a national program for the diagnosis and classification of disabilities and creating of a unified national registry and statistics database.
Tamader Al-Rammah, the deputy minister of labor and social development, told the 11th session of the UN Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) that the Kingdom has developed an initiative that promotes early intervention, expands the public schools’ integration program, provides professional training, and applies a comprehensive access program.
“This year, a commission for supporting persons with disabilities has been established to act as an umbrella and reference body for keeping track of laws, regulations and policies concerning persons with disabilities, in addition to leading the implementation of action plans, empowerment plans, raising awareness and providing support and counseling,” she said.
Al-Rammah added that the Kingdom has implemented many measures to provide social protection for persons with disabilities and encourage their full integration in society and the job market.
“In 2000, the Disability Law was established to guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities, including protection, care and rehabilitation,” she said. “In 2008, Saudi Arabia has acceded to the CRPD and its optional protocol.”
She added that the Kingdom’s vision, with its three pillars: A vibrant society, a prosperous economy and an ambitious homeland, was keen to empower people with disabilities and provide them with suitable job opportunities, an education that guarantees their independence, and all the tools they need to help them succeed.
Al-Rammah explained that many institutions support the rights of persons with disabilities and offer help.
“The ministry supervises 38 centers for comprehensive rehabilitation across the Kingdom,” she said, “There are also 44 specialized associations and 347 day-care centers to serve all age groups and disabilities.”
She added that the King Salman Award for Disability Research was introduced to promote scientific research to address disabilities and reduce their impact.
Al-Rammah also pointed out that the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020 aims to ensure the full integration of people with disabilities in the job market. This includes the establishment of the Mowaamah program, which aims to provide suitable work environments for disabled people, according to international standards, to support their economic independence and integration into society.


How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

Dr. Fatima Alakeel, cybersecurity expert. (AN photo)
Updated 20 March 2019
0

How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

  • ‘Securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,’ says Dr. Fatema Alakeel of King Saud University in Riyadh
  • ‘Saudi women are ambitious,’ says one graduate. ‘We are acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers’

DUBAI: More and more girls in Saudi Arabia are opting for an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and now the challenge is finding them employment, said Dr. Fatima Alakeel, a cybersecurity expert and faculty member at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh.
“In the Kingdom, STEM-related jobs are limited at the moment, as the economy is primarily oil-based and there are few technical jobs available,” said Alakeel, who is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability Group (CIAG), which focuses on information security training and research in Riyadh.
According to a government report on the labor market situation in the third quarter of 2018, more than 30 percent of Saudi women aged between 15 and 65 are unemployed.
Among them, the highest rate of unemployment is among 20-24-year-olds (more than 70 percent) and among 25-29-year-olds (55 percent).
According to the report, there are 923,504 Saudi jobseekers, of whom 765,378 are women (82.2 percent).
“We have more girls in STEM education compared to Western countries,” said Alakeel, who completed her doctoral degree in computer science in the UK at the University of Southampton in 2017.
According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry, girls accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom.
That same year, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics and statistics, and physics.
According to a survey Alakeel recently conducted on social media, “almost 80 percent of (Saudi) girls were keen to study STEM, but securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,” she said.
Maha Al-Taleb, 22, graduated earlier this year with a degree in technology from KSU, specializing in IT networks and security.
“It’s common for girls in the Kingdom to opt for STEM education,” said Al-Taleb, who now works in a public sector company in Riyadh as a junior information security analyst.
“Saudi women are ambitious. We’re acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers. I don’t know why the world assumes that Saudi women are a backward tribal species who have no say in these matters. This entire perception is flawed.”
Al-Taleb got a job offer immediately after university, but realizes that not all her peers are as fortunate. Women “are facing problems in securing jobs, not because companies don’t want to hire us, but because employment for Saudi youths is a major challenge,” she said.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, parents are encouraging their daughters to get a degree not just in the Kingdom; they also want them to go to Western universities. It has become a common phenomenon. Things have changed. Women are a crucial part of the nation’s development process.”
Not all women graduating in the Kingdom are as lucky, among them Razan Al-Qahtani. “It has been several months since I graduated, yet I haven’t been able to find a job. It has been a struggle so far,” said the 25-year-old IT graduate. “We have more talented and qualified girls, especially in the field of technology, but there are few jobs available. It’s a difficult situation, but we’re hopeful things will change very soon.”
Al-Qahtani expressed confidence that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan will bring opportunities for qualified Saudis.
As part of Vision 2030, the government has committed to raise employment among Saudi women.
Alakeel said the government is working hard to find a solution, and it is only a matter of time until more such jobs are on offer.
“As per Vision 2030, there will be more jobs, including technical jobs, available in the country. Once we have more jobs, women will eventually get their due share,” she added. According to Alakeel, female empowerment and promotion to leading roles have made huge progress in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect existing STEM job opportunities.
“We’re glad to see Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud becoming the first female ambassador of the country. It only suggests change is on the way,” Alakeel said.
Al-Taleb expressed pride in the way her parents have supported her, saying: “My father isn’t educated and my mother has basic literacy, but both provided me with the education I desired. They want their daughters to be as successful as their sons.”
Like women in any country, the transition from university to the workplace is not always easy, even for young Saudi women with technology degrees. Yet they are not losing hope.
“We realize these are difficult times in terms of employment, especially in technology-related fields, but things will change,” Al-Taleb said. “Saudi women will soon be ruling the fields of STEM all over the country.”