Women ‘playing key role in the battle against coronavirus pandemic’: Women 20 chair

Dr. Thoraya Obaid, chair of Women 20, an official G20 engagement group. (AN photo)
Short Url
Updated 24 April 2020

Women ‘playing key role in the battle against coronavirus pandemic’: Women 20 chair

  • Thoraya Obaid says women contributed $1.5 trillion to the global health economy "even before these extraordinary times"
  • Notes that women account for almost 7 out of 10 health and social care workers.

RIYADH: Women are on the frontline in the battle against the coronavirus, says Dr. Thoraya Obaid, chair of Women 20, an official G20 engagement group.

“It is important that G20 leaders explicitly discuss and recognize the role women are playing in fighting the pandemic, and the impact the fight has on them as health care system users,” Obaid told Arab News on Thursday.

“Policies and public health efforts need to address the gendered impacts of disease outbreaks. Experts find that pandemics make existing gender inequalities for women and girls worse and can impact their treatment and care.”

She said that women made up a disproportionate percentage of workers in sectors and roles most impacted by economic downturns and which afforded less social protection.

“Women contributed $1.5 trillion to the global health economy even before these extraordinary times,” she said.

“Women are a vital part of the health care infrastructure battling the COVID-19 pandemic head-on. Women comprise almost 7 out of 10 health and social care workers. Given their predominant roles as caregivers within families and as frontline health care workers, women are more likely to be exposed to the virus,” she said.

Obaid highlighted 10 responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first must be the inclusion of women in national and global COVID-19 outbreak preparedness, response policy and operational spaces. 

In addition, there must be women’s representation at community-level decision-making and as contributors to identifying local trends and responsive policies. She also outlined the necessary actions to be taken, as agreed on by the W20 members.

Such other crucial responses included developing economic-financial stimulus packages and forms of protection that included emergency child care provisions to encourage the division of care or roles and tasks between parents.

Employers must be encouraged to implement measures that recognized the role of women as carers for sick, disabled and elderly family members, and ensure that they were not penalized for undertaking the carer’s responsibilities, she said.

Economic security must be provided for women small business owners. This must include tax exemptions, suspension of mortgages, plus loans for freelancing women workers and entrepreneurs. 

In addition, protection for workers in the informal sector must include expanding safety nets through leave entitlements and support payments. The use of ICT support for men and women to work from home must be accelerated and provided free of charge to the digitally excluded.

There needed to be collection, reporting and analyzing of data on the gendered impact of pandemic response policies, Obaid said. Account must be taken of the different types of vulnerabilities women faced due to discrimination based on age, race, ethnicity, religion, disabilities and health conditions. 

In addition, the gendered implications of quarantine must be acknowledged in service provision by recognizing men’s and women’s different physical, cultural, security and sanitary needs. Protection and assistance from gender-based violence must be increased and this should include hotlines and monitoring.

Obaid said that appropriate action must be taken when the pandemic ended.

“As governments and leaders, G20 members must make sure that the measures they put in place now to curb the pandemic do not roll back the gains made concerning women’s equality.”

“On the contrary, leaders have an opportunity to develop policy responses to the pandemic that build a foundation for realizing gender-equitable economic opportunities and contributing to the elimination of gender inequalities.”

“Once the pandemic is under control, G20 leaders must return to the urgent agenda of tackling the systemic changes needed to promote gender parity and ensure women’s equal participation in the economy,” she said.

Saudi authorities: 4 dead, 48 injured after bus collision in Madinah province

Updated 26 November 2021

Saudi authorities: 4 dead, 48 injured after bus collision in Madinah province

  • The bus carrying 45 passengers collided with a truck
  • Madinah, Makkah and Qassim authorities assisted victims

RIYADH: A collision between a bus and truck left four people dead in Saudi Arabia, authorities reported on Friday.

The bus, which was carrying 45 passengers, collided with a truck on Al-Hijrah highway, in Madinah province.

The crash happened just after the town of Al-Yutamah, around 90km from Madinah city.

Some of those injured were treated at the scene of the crash before being transferred to local hospitals.

The multi-province operation to deal with the incident featured over 20 ambulances and advanced care units from Madinah, supported by eight units from Makkah and another three from Qassim, according to Khaled Al-Sehali, a Saudi Red Crescent Authority spokesperson.

Okaz newspaper said ambulances were called at 11:27pm on Thursday, though authorities did not confirm exactly when the accident occurred.


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

The busy route, which underwent refurbishment more than two years ago, is one of the main road links between the provinces of Makkah and Madinah.

Pilgrims and other worshipers often use the route to visit the Two Holy Mosques: The Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.

Photos from the scene show a red Bonluck bus with extensive damage to the right front and side, its windshield torn off.

In 2019, thirty-five pilgrims died on the same highway near the village of Al-Akhal after their bus collided with a loader. Those on the bus were expats in the Kingdom and of Asian and Arab nationalities.

Saudi Arabia had 12,317 traffic deaths in 2019, according to World Health Organization estimates.

Saudis prefer revisiting their favorite holiday destinations

Updated 26 November 2021

Saudis prefer revisiting their favorite holiday destinations

  • Egypt, UAE, Maldives and Austria most popular travel destinations for Saudi travelers abroad post pandemic

JEDDAH: Year after year, holidaymakers in Saudi Arabia prefer revisiting their favorite holiday destinations, and research shows that Saudis are not breaking away from their pre-pandemic patterns anytime soon.

According to new research from Marriott Bonvoy, the travel loyalty program encompassing hotels, resorts, home rentals, and experiences across 30 brands in 138 countries, 12 percent of Saudi travelers have revisited the same country 10 times or more. In contrast, 30 percent returned to the same country five times or more before the onset of the pandemic last March.

International tourism has always been the preferred way of vacationing for many Saudis, with Arab countries leading in many categories.

“I would normally prefer my getaway destination to be familiar and cozy, somewhere I can call my second home. I like walking down the street to a coffee shop that knows my order, and hiking a trail alongside a river I have memorized,” said 29-year-old Abrar Abulfaraj from Jeddah.

The habitual nature of Saudi travelers shows that even post-pandemic, just 21 percent of those traveling abroad would opt for exploring a new vacation spot. 

Abulfaraj added: “Only due to the pandemic have I become adamant to visit new destinations, (have) new adventures, and appreciate more the luxury of traveling abroad as soon as the coast is clear.”

It is worth noting that the current health measures still being exercised around the world to manage the pandemic also contribute to Saudi travelers’ decisions.

While the following countries have always been staples, many elements come into play when deciding on a trip abroad, including accommodation, cuisine, language, route, currency exchange, and guaranteed weather.

As of 2021, 84 percent expressed their intention to go on a trip in the next 12 months, compared to the 8 percent who plan not to, and the remaining 8 percent are still on the fence.

Post-pandemic statistics show that Egypt will be the No. 1 getaway destination, with 33 percent of travelers intending to visit the country.

I would normally prefer my getaway destination to be familiar and cozy, somewhere I can call it my second home. I like walking down the street to a coffee shop that knows my order, and hiking a trail alongside a river I have memorized.

Abrar Abulfaraj

Noha Yousef, a private-sector worker in Riyadh, told Arab News that getting back on planes and flying to her favorite destinations has revived the sense of adventure in her.

“My family has been visiting Cairo ever since I can remember and it’s always the first stop to any destination. Whether it was Europe or the US, even Bali once, Cairo is where I head to first and I visit it at least twice a year,” said Yousef.

“We’re creatures of habit and once you find something or somewhere that’s comfortable, you’ll keep going back to it because it’s where you enjoy yourself most of the time when you’re away. Cairo to me has always been a place of adventure, there’s always something new to experience. 

“Whether you’re wandering in the alleyways of the old town or zigzagging in the double-parked side roads in the heart of the city, headed to the newest attraction, there’s always something to do and you can’t beat the Egyptian hospitality.”

The second most popular travel destination for Saudi travelers is the UAE, with 29 percent planning on flying there for a much-needed break.

The language, food and proximity of the UAE to Saudi Arabia make it an ideal vacation choice.

Farther away favorites are the Maldives and Austria, respectively, with 15 and 12 percent of Saudi travelers considering them for their next trip.

While some embark on adventurous trips and immerse themselves in new cultures and experiences, research shows that most Saudis traveling abroad opt for familiar and previously visited holiday destinations.

Neal Jones, chief sales and marketing officer of Marriott International, said: “We know there is pent-up demand for travel and this research demonstrates the impact the pandemic is continuing to have on global travel trends.

“The figures suggest that post-pandemic, Saudi Arabian holiday makers are seeking out tried and trusted destinations where they know exactly what to expect — to be able to make the most out of a long-awaited holiday abroad and to avoid any surprises after 18 months of turmoil and uncertainty.”

Saudi ministry signs deal for training of people with disabilities

Updated 26 November 2021

Saudi ministry signs deal for training of people with disabilities

RIYADH: Acting Riyadh Gov. Prince Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Abdulaziz sponsored the signing of an agreement to provide more than 500 jobs to people with disabilities.
The agreement between the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, the Technical and Vocational Training Corp., and the Sa3ee foundation will see the latter provide job training to people with disabilities registered with the ministry.
The training is also intended to improve the recipients’ standing in society, increase their independence, and help achieve the goals of Vision 2030 reform plan.

KSrelief provides aid in Pakistan, Yemen, Jordan

Updated 26 November 2021

KSrelief provides aid in Pakistan, Yemen, Jordan

BALOCHISTAN: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center recently distributed 1,700 bags of winter provisions to the needy groups in the Loralai district of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, benefiting 11,900 people.
In Yemen, KSrelief’s mobile medical clinics recently provided treatment to 351 patients in the Hajjah governorate. Meanwhile, Al-Jada Health Center outlets in the governorate provided treatment to 1,270 people in a week.
In Jordan, KSrelief continues to provide medical services to Syrian refugees in Zaatari camp, with its clinics there recently treating 529 patients in a day.

Visitors flocking to rare bird collection in Riyadh’s Salam Park

Updated 25 November 2021

Visitors flocking to rare bird collection in Riyadh’s Salam Park

  • Visitors can find more than 50 different bird species in the garden, including scarlet macaws, cockatiel, white peacocks, cockatoos, pionus parrots and many more

RIYADH: Visitors are flocking to Salam Park’s bird garden, part of Riyadh Season’s 14 zones, where colorful exotic parrots have found a new home.

The zone, which opened on Nov. 19, has been well received by visitors, with thousands of people marveling at the winged creatures on display.

Visitors can find more than 50 different bird species in the garden, including scarlet macaws, cockatiel, white peacocks, cockatoos, pionus parrots and many more.

The owner of the garden, Ahmed Khoja, has raised and trained birds for 15 years. He told Arab News that he transformed his hobby into a business in 2016.

“We witnessed a great turnout from visitors and everyone was pleased with the efforts that we are putting in. The turnout is now huge as we get about 700 to 1,000 visitors per day,” Khoja said.

“The popularity in Riyadh Season is more than expected. We have 80 to 100 visitors every 15 minutes and 100 to 300 people waiting in line to enter the garden, which is very surprising,” he added. 

Mohammed Awaji, a 13-year-old parrot trainer, used the opportunity to take part in Riyadh Season and hone the skills he has developed for more than two years.

“A lot of visitors here are passionate about parrots, and I feel like this place is perfect for people with this kind of hobby. We are striving to raise more awareness about animal culture. So far, visitors are conscious and committed to precautions,” Awaj said.

He added that some of the parrot species are exotic and rare and that within Saudi Arabia, Salam Park is the only place where they can be viewed.

“Sitting on my shoulder, we have a cacatua moluccensis, one of the rarest parrots. Its price is estimated between $50,000 and $150,000. This bird is native to Indonesia,” Awaji said, describing the trained salmon-crested cockatoo perched on his shoulder.

When people enter the bird garden, they arrive among a variety of visitors, including locals, foreigners, children and people with disabilities. 

Sultan Al-Otaibi, a visitor with down’s syndrome, told Arab News how excited and happy he was to touch and play with birds, and said that people with the condition are particularly fond of animals.

“The birds are so colorful and beautiful, especially the red ones, and the place is amazing. I touched all the birds. Without fear, I placed them on my arm. I want to come every day,” he added.

Manar Mohammed, a Saudi visitor, told Arab News that it was her first time seeing many of the birds within the Kingdom.

“My three-year-old daughter had so much fun here because she loves animals, and this kind of activity was much needed in Riyadh Season. The bird collection is enormous, and most of them look different to what we are used to seeing,” she said.

Mary Jane, a visitor from the Philippines, told Arab News that the Riyadh Season far exceeded her expectations and helped her feel less homesick after she reconnected with some of the native fauna of her homeland.

“I couldn’t imagine how beautiful it is. Riyadh Season met the expectations of their slogan, ‘Imagine More!’ It’s the first time I’ve seen these birds for a long time. It was nice to find this kind of activity in our second home, Saudi Arabia,” Jane said.

The garden is one of the activities included in the Salam Tree zone. Salam Tree, which means the tree of peace, is included among the free zones as part of Riyadh Season in 2021. Visitors can book tickets from Riyadh Season’s website to visit the garden.