Female empowerment vital for Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms, says Saudi Human Rights Commission GM

Amal Yahya Al-Moualami has over 23 years of experience in education, training and social development. (Photo/Supplied )
Updated 11 October 2019

Female empowerment vital for Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms, says Saudi Human Rights Commission GM

  • Saudi Arabia’s positive accomplishments reflect a positive image in the Human Rights Council in Geneva

RIYADH: Amal Yahya Al-Moualami’s appointment as general manager of international cooperation and organizations at the Saudi Human Rights Commission (SHRC) is a huge step toward fulfilling the Vision 2030 reform plans in empowering women.

She told Arab News that it “clearly shows that the Kingdom’s journey toward empowering women has taken wider and quicker strides and continues to open up new doors every day.”

She was one of six women being appointed to the SHRC, representing 25 percent of its membership. They are the first women to participate on the commission.

Their appointments mark the beginning of an era where women are engaged in this field, “something that could not have happened without necessary support and patience,” she said.

“We were able to reach a stage where we could acquire the necessary expertise and gain the tools that would help us become more involved in the next stage, which is now.”  

When she was appointed, Al-Moualami received an “avalanche of calls” from women congratulating her. Many of her male friends also reached out to support her in her new role. “I always say that Saudi men are the source of our national pride because they set a great example of support to their wives, daughters, female colleagues and families.”

Previously, Al-Moualami was assistant secretary-general at the King Abdul Aziz Center for National Dialogue and a member of the council of the SHRC.

A key part of the Vision 2030 reform plans is promoting the standing of women. “Today, women’s empowerment has been represented in appointing a woman leader in an important position, which is concerned with human rights in the Kingdom. It is a major issue that reflects the attention given to women,” she said.

She added that the Kingdom’s positive accomplishments should reflect a positive image in the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Al-Moualami is proud of Saudi Arabia’s legal accomplishments, such as the new Juvenile Offenders Act and the personal civil status laws, which have been developed substantially.

“These laws have helped a lot in empowering women within the context of a family. They mark the beginning of real change. When you empower a woman within her family and help her be a real mother to her children and not treat her as a child but as a fully legal and competent citizen, that is called empowerment.

“Today, women are in charge of their children, manage their affairs and apply for passports and finalize all transactions. These are great messages that should bring positive reactions at the local and global levels.”

Even with all these changes and accomplishments, she said that Saudi Arabia has “not received fair international coverage.

“We were always stuck in the position of defense and justifications. They would draw attention to certain issues and we would respond to them. This time, we will talk about progress and show our achievements to them. We will set the best practices and show them good reforms and we will say to them that we would love to know more about what they have accomplished in their own countries.”  

She encourages “mutual dialogue” instead of being “stuck in a defensive position where they challenge us and we give justifications.”

Today, women are in charge of their children, manage their affairs and apply for passports and finalize all transactions. These are great messages that should bring positive reactions at the local and global levels.

Amal Yahya Al-Moualami, SHRC division manager

Her next role will be a difficult one, but she already has a plan in mind. Al-Moualami is seeking mutual dialogue on an international level through enhancing efficient interaction and engagement with all concerned organizations.

She hopes that Saudi Arabia will be successful in joining the Human Rights Council in the upcoming sessions as members and will contribute to developing the performance of the council.

“We might make mistakes and need to reconsider our approaches from time to time, which is a perfectly healthy and natural thing. If we discover at some point that a certain method has not brought about the desired results, we will reconsider and change it.”

Al-Moualami has over 23 years of experience in education, training and social development. On expanding opportunities for Saudi females, she said: “There have been great changes in the work environment and job opportunities for Saudi women as well as opportunities to complete college education.

“Education is instrumental to empowerment. The Kingdom has seen a boost in the number of young women in public education, colleges and those who go on scholarships abroad. The percentage of women studying abroad is higher than that of men and women study different, high demand fields. Female academic accomplishments are stronger.”

Al-Moualami said that Saudi men are supporting women in the country: “They are happy when they see any woman get to the top in her career. This is one of the characteristics of Saudi men, who are confident and capable of creating an environment that encompasses them and women.

“We all, as citizens, share the love of this country and the desire to build and develop it. We are capable of making a difference.”

Saudi Arabia delivers ‘early warning’ on preterm births

Updated 21 November 2019

Saudi Arabia delivers ‘early warning’ on preterm births

  • Cost of care, long-term health issues a challenge for hospitals, says expert

JEDDAH: Up to 60,000 babies are born prematurely every year in Saudi Arabia with hospitals in the Kingdom spending up to SR60,000 ($16,000) on individual treatment and specialized care, a leading pediatrician told Arab News.

Dr. Sawsan Hussein Daffa, consultant neonatologist and head of pediatrics department at the Aya Specialist Hospital, said that the Saudi Ministry of Health is working to ensure premature infants get the best medical help possible, in addition to assisting families, despite the high cost.

“Premature births can cost hospitals and insurance companies as much as SR100,000 ($26,667),” she said. “Services provided to care for premature babies can cost hospitals SR50,000-60,000 during the infant’s stay.”

Daffa was speaking after World Prematurity Day on Nov. 17.

Any child born before 36 weeks of the gestational age is called premature.

“The particularly small babies are placed in incubators for a period of time ranging from 30 to 60 days. This can cost government hospitals/insurance companies around SR60,000. Some others are placed there for longer periods and can even cost SR100,000,” she said.

However, the consultant said that up to 28 percent of premature babies die due to complications.

The Saudi Health Ministry’s website said that some preterm births are likely to have more health problems than babies born on time. “These may face long-term health problems affecting the brain, lungs, hearing or vision.”

“One of the most life-threatening problems is respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), which can cause babies to need extra oxygen and help with breathing. RDS occurs when there is not enough surfactant in the lungs. This substance, made by the lungs, keeps the airways open and helps babies breathe,” she said.

Daffa said that a baby with RDS is usually kept on a respiratory machine and receives surfactant.

“Premature babies are put in incubators until they are 1.8 to 2kg. This normally needs a month or two. Sometimes, they are placed there for three months depending on the weight of the premature child when they were born. The less they weigh, the more time they need to spend in the incubator,” she said.

Daffa said that World Prematurity Day was first celebrated 11 years ago in Italy when the families of premature infants gathered. “It has been celebrated yearly since then,” she said.

“It is an occasion during which physicians work on promoting awareness among families, especially pregnant women, to prevent preterm births. It is also a chance to spread awareness as to how to help premature babies avoid diseases.”

The consultant said that a premature baby grows differently from a full-term baby in their early years.

“These babies may start walking later than their peers. Sometimes complications can affect their brains and thus, they join school late, too,” she said. But she said that by the age of 10 their development was similar to that of other children.

The neonatologist advised parents of premature children to attend events to help their children avoid complications.

“Pregnant mothers should follow up with their doctors to detect problems early and find solutions. They should also follow a diet rich in proteins, folic acid and minerals,” she added. 

Daffa said a special vaccine given to premature babies could protect them against the respiratory syncytial virus, which normally hits premature infants from October to March.

According to a 2018 report by the World Health Organization, more than 60 percent of preterm births occur in Africa and South Asia, but preterm birth is a global problem. In lower-income countries, on average 12 percent of babies are born too early compared with 9 percent in higher-income countries, the report said.

Within countries, poorer families are at higher risk, it added.