How Saudi nonprofit Alnahda blazed a trail in women’s empowerment

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Updated 19 October 2020

How Saudi nonprofit Alnahda blazed a trail in women’s empowerment

  • Alnahda, which will helm G20’s engagement group on women, has a proud history of fostering female participation in Saudi society
  • The charity stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist households with financial burdens and provide tools for remote learning

RIYADH: It has been 58 years since Alnahda Philanthropic Society for Women was established in Saudi Arabia to encourage female participation in society and help create a world of justice and equal opportunities.

And now, in recognition of its celebrated work, the organization has won King Salman’s endorsement to helm the Women 20 (W20) — the official G20 engagement group on women — in the run-up to the leaders’ summit in November.

Alnahda, which means “the awakening,” was founded in 1962 to help empower Saudi women economically and socially through targeted development projects. In June 2019, it was officially accredited by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Its mission is to ensure a community environment that is conducive to women’s participation, preserves their dignity, and helps build their capacity to reach positions of leadership.

At the helm of the W20 Riyadh edition, Alnahda will help facilitate discussions among a network of delegates representing non-governmental women’s organizations, female entrepreneurs, and think tanks from across the G20 member states.

 

The aim is to ensure gender considerations are placed firmly on the agenda and are included in the G20 Leaders’ Declaration as policies and commitments that foster gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

The W20 is only the latest achievement in the foundation’s long history. Muneera Al-Touq, who sits on the Alnahda board, told Arab News the foundation was one of the oldest charitable organizations in the Kingdom, founded by Princess Sara Al-Faisal and a number of other women with the encouragement of Queen Effat, the pioneer of Saudi women’s education.

Al-Touq, an expert in community services, statistics, and epidemiology, joined Alnahda in 2010 to examine the foundation’s training programs, judge their efficiency, and consider how they could be improved. She was elected to the board in 2014.

“I saw the people who ran it, the people who founded it. It was always something that was different and pioneering. They were always ahead of their time. They think of everything before it happens. And the quality of their programs, the quality of work, is truly of a high standard.”

 

Recounting the formative period of the organization, she said: “Alnahda’s founders started with general charity work in their community, but there was a big focus on working in the field of women’s illiteracy and fulfilling beneficiaries’ basic needs in terms of food, shelter, and clothing.

“This was in the early 1960s and, as Alnahda grew, its knowledge of these needs became clearer, helping to navigate through them. As the Kingdom developed, so did women’s needs.”

Alnahda’s programs continue to evolve and develop, as do the needs of the woman they target, said Al-Touq.

“We will always support and help women to become active members of our society. We will always try to ensure that the social environment and local community help women to build their capabilities and reach leadership positions.

 

“How we do that has a lot to do with what’s happening around us. And we’ve seen so many positive changes and advances for women in the Kingdom that have accelerated our work very quickly, and we will continue to keep up with that and develop programs to support them and head into the future where I think there are no limits,” she added.

As the CEO of Alnahda since 2013, Rasha Al-Turki oversees the foundation’s strategy, direction, and financial health.

She told Arab News: “I first joined Alnahda as chief project officer in 2010. I joined because Alnahda is the leading organization in the field of women’s socio-economic development, a cause I have been dedicated to for most of my life. My personal educational and professional goals have always revolved around women’s empowerment.”

Al-Turki said Alnahda provided space to be creative, to try new things, and to come up with new solutions without the heavy burden of bureaucracy.

“I think for people who are dedicated to a cause, it’s important to be in such an environment that fosters new ways of thinking and encourages employees to be nimble and to react to changing realities or become proactive with solving issues,” she added.




Rasha Al-Turki
 

Alnahda’s work covers the main areas of grassroots assistance, research, and advocacy.

In its grassroots assistance, the foundation works directly with its thousands of beneficiaries, offering programs on career and capacity development. The bulk of its beneficiaries are covered by its financial and social support program, with assistance given to almost 400 families each year — around 2,500 individuals.

“We look at how we can help develop the family in a holistic approach. So, we always look into all development needs of the entire family unit when we are creating their development plan collaboratively with the beneficiaries,” Al-Turki said.

“Our financial support is used as a tool to lighten their financial burdens thereby allowing them the mental and emotional space to set and execute a development plan for themselves and their household with the assistance of their social worker.

“The fulfilment of this plan is essential to ensuring that they and their family are able to break the cycle of inherited poverty and graduate out of financial assistance — both ours and social security.”

In terms of research, Alnahda looks for new ways to improve the efficiency of its programs and the design of policies that target women, involving policymakers, social scientists, and other stakeholders.

In its advocacy, meanwhile, the foundation raises awareness among local and international policymakers to help promote women’s socio-economic inclusion.

None of this would be possible without Alnahda donors, who fall into three main categories. Al-Turki said. “We have individuals, who are the biggest source of our revenue. We also receive grants from companies, usually from their CSR (corporate social responsibility) departments.

“Then we have some companies that will ask us to do a particular project for which we get compensated. We sometimes receive funding from the government for particular projects.”




Volunteers packaging laptop computers for student beneficiaries of Alnahda. (Supplied photo)

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has placed new pressures on households. Early on, Alnahda was able to give immediate financial assistance to beneficiaries who had lost their jobs, help them pay rent, and prepare their homes for the lockdown.

“Before last summer, we collected and distributed more than 500 computers for 350 families,” added Al-Turki.

However, when virtual teaching resumed after the summer break, Alnahda realized one computer per family was not enough. That is why it launched Thaber — which means “persistent” — to help provide more devices and internet subscriptions, allowing students to flourish in the new virtual learning environment.

But empowerment is about more than just surviving tough economic times. During Saudi Arabia’s 2015 municipal council elections, which allowed women to participate as voters and candidates for the first time, Alnahda launched an influence-awareness campaign. Al-Touq said one of the foundation’s beneficiaries went on to win a seat in the election and became a community champion.




A volunteer prepares laptop computers for distrinution to student beneficiaries of Alnahda. (Supplied photo)

“Her story shows what Alnahda means. Our vision is to help these women become effective partners in the development of our society. So, when she goes from needing the help of Alnahda to becoming a representative for her community, it’s inspirational and it motivates us to keep working,” she added.

“It’s not a matter of helping someone reach a goal, it’s a matter of helping someone blossom into the best version of themselves. It is a matter of positively changing the individuals, their households, and their communities. And I think that’s where Alnahda stands out.”

A goal Al-Turki would like to see the foundation work toward was greater inclusivity. “I’d really like to be more inclusive of men within our organization, because I believe that only when women and men work together are they able to come up with better solutions and achieve a more sustainable impact.

“We’ve already started being more inclusive in our programming, especially when it comes to the beneficiaries. We believe that we rise and fall together,” she said.

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Twitter: @LujainBenGassem


Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

Updated 06 March 2021

Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

RIYADH: The Riyadh branch of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance on Friday organized an awareness and monitoring campaign to ensure mosques were implementing COVID-19 precautionary and preventive measures, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The campaign was carried out in cooperation with the General Directorate of Health Affairs in Riyadh and a number of volunteer associations.
Healthcare volunteers and mosque supervisors took part in the campaign. Participants told worshippers to comply with social distancing measures, use their own prayer mats, and wear a face mask at all times.
They also organized the entry and exit of worshippers, in addition to distributing masks and prayer mats among them.
The director general of the ministry’s branch in Riyadh, Ahmed Al-Fares, said the campaign aimed to help raise awareness about COVID-19 prevention methods.
He added that the campaign was in line with the efforts of various state agencies to fight the pandemic and also promote a culture of volunteering among government bodies.

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Stitch in time: Saudi fashion dresses for the future

The Saudi Cup showcased traditional outfits, with the Ministry of Culture’s fashion commission encouraging a dress code that required racegoers to highlight their heritage. (Supplied)
Updated 06 March 2021

Stitch in time: Saudi fashion dresses for the future

  • Traditional wear gets a modern makeover as designers keep the past alive

JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia sets out to introduce its culture, history and social life to a global audience, fashion is finding it has a key role to play in the Kingdom’s “brand strategy.”

Traditional wear proudly worn by both Saudis and expats at the recent Saudi Cup showed how age-old cultural styles could find new life in a contemporary setting.
While fashions can reflect a specific era, they also can act as a transition to the future, with fabrics, cuts, motifs and embroidery designs, and even colors and layers, keeping the story alive.
The Saudi Cup showcased traditional outfits, with the Ministry of Culture’s fashion commission encouraging a dress code that required racegoers to highlight their heritage, and designers to showcase their exclusive works, mixing the contemporary with the old.
Although Western outfits dominate the world fashion market, Saudi Arabia is choosing to stay connected with its traditional dress.
Saudi designers are constantly introducing new trends in the way outfits are made or worn, finding inspiration in age-old styles or seeking to bring the traditional clothing of a region into the present.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Although Western outfits dominate the world fashion market, Saudi Arabia is choosing to stay connected with its traditional dress.

• Saudi designers are constantly introducing new trends in the way outfits are made or worn, finding inspiration in age-old styles or seeking to bring the traditional clothing of a region into the present.

• Mohammed Khoja, a fashion designer who uses traditional approaches in his contemporary work, believes that his collections help shed light on cultural elements that appeal to both local and international audiences. 

• International events, from Eid celebrations at Saudi missions across the globe to overseas university students celebrating an occasion, allow Saudis to don traditional clothing to represent their homeland.

• Omaima Kindassa, a Saudi designer and owner of a contemporary heritage boutique, said that events such as the Saudi Cup allowed Saudis to represent their own region and culture, as well as show the Kingdom’s rich heritage and diverse culture to the world.

• Princess Nourah Al-Faisal, the designer behind Nuun Jewels, hoped to represent the historical beauty and color of traditional Saudi clothing in a way that encouraged people to embrace and celebrate their culture.

Mohammed Khoja, a fashion designer who uses traditional approaches in his contemporary work, said: “Since the beginning of my fashion design career, cultural elements have appealed to me. I am particularly driven by being able to contribute in documenting and potentially giving cultural elements more importance.”
Khoja believes that his collections help shed light on cultural elements that appeal to both local and international audiences.

Traditional wear proudly worn by both Saudis and expats showed how age-old cultural styles could find new life in a contemporary setting.

The same elements have also helped him identify with his own contemporary identity, he said.
Omaima Kindassa, a Saudi designer and owner of a contemporary heritage boutique, said that events such as the Saudi Cup allowed Saudis to represent their own region and culture, as well as show the Kingdom’s rich heritage and diverse culture to the world.
“I’ve been designing and modernizing traditional Saudi wear for 10 years,” Kindassa told Arab News. “Now many younger designers are pursuing that as well because they have fallen in love with our heritage.”
She added: “If the current generation were to wear traditional clothes, they would find them overbearing and heavy, especially accessory-embellished designs and those adorned by stones. Modernizing these outfits makes them relevant to today’s generation and ensures our tradition keeps pace with fashion.”

The Saudi Cup showcased traditional outfits, with the Ministry of Culture’s fashion commission encouraging a dress code that required racegoers to highlight their heritage, and designers to showcase their exclusive works, mixing the contemporary with the old. (Supplied)

Kindassa specializes in traditional wear from the Kingdom’s regions but also modern clothing “that tell tales of the long past.”
“Each region offers its own rich heritage through its designs, from the geometric elegant shapes, the vibrant colors, the embroidery — it looks like a painting to admire,” she said.
International events, from Eid celebrations at Saudi missions across the globe to overseas university students celebrating an occasion, allow Saudis to don traditional clothing to represent their homeland.
Princess Nourah Al-Faisal, the designer behind Nuun Jewels, told Arab News that the Saudi Cup was a “great opportunity to present the variety, regionality and beauty that is Saudi culture.”


She was brought in as a consultant for the project, a link between the Saudi Cup and the Ministry of Culture, “to curate the event in terms of looks and feel.”
Princess Nourah said the idea to promote traditional Saudi fashion was not hers, but came from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The princess hoped to represent the historical beauty and color of traditional Saudi clothing in a way that encouraged people to embrace and celebrate their culture. She also wanted people to take ownership of their heritage, and see designers and communities using it as inspiration for future designs.
“So not just reproducing traditional cultural dress, but also taking it as a point of reference and moving forward into the future, recreating it, developing it and having fun with it by creating something completely new,” she said.
Impressed with the outcome, she hopes to build on this momentum where people celebrate culture every day.
“There are a number of entities within Saudi Arabia, organizations that are all about preserving our heritage; things like regional embroidery, jewelry, costumes, and really making sure that they’re archiving it, whether through photographs or through the actual pieces. I think that is something that we have been working on as a nation either in the private sector or the public sector for a while,” she said.

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Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Updated 06 March 2021

Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Muhammad Ali Albakri has been appointed senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services at the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Since January 2017, Albakri held the role of regional vice president for the Africa and Middle East region.

Succeeding Aleks Popovich, Albakri is now responsible for IATA’s financial settlement products and services. He will be expected to process more than $450 billion of industry every year.
His responsibilities also include strengthening IATA’s client and customer activities, along with the company’s digital transformation initiatives for the benefit of the aviation industry.
IATA’s Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said Popovich left behind a great team with a clear focus on customer service that will continue to drive critical changes under Albakri’s capable leadership.
The company’s website described Albakri as “an agent of change,” who will transform the MENA team to better serve member needs and pioneer the work of IATA’s digital transformation advisory council.
“Albakri is well prepared to guide the development of IATA’s commercial offerings, settlement services and digital leadership,” de Juniac said in a statement. “In normal times, these are critical functions, even more so in the middle of an industry crisis.”
Albakri previously worked for Saudia, the Kingdom’s national flag carrier, and served as its vice president of information technology. From 2009 to 2016, he was in charge of strengthening the company’s technology infrastructure and modernizing its financial practices. Albakri earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in information sciences from the University of Pittsburgh.


Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia

Updated 06 March 2021

Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia

  • All events and parties will continue to be suspended until further notice
  • Social gatherings remain restricted to a maximum of 20 people

RIYADH: Cinemas, gyms and sports centers will be allowed to reopen in Saudi Arabia from Sunday.
Indoor dining can also resume in restaurants and cafes along with other recreational activities, the interior ministry said on Friday.
However, all events and parties will continue to be suspended until further notice. This includes weddings, corporate meetings, events in banquet halls and social events.
Social gatherings remain restricted to a maximum of 20 people.
The Kingdom suspended recreational events on Feb. 3 to halt the spread of COVID-19. The suspension was extended on Feb. 14 for 20 days.
The ministry urged people to adhere to measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and said there would be an increase in spot checks to ensure everyone followed the rules.

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Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths

Updated 06 March 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths

  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 369,922
  • A total of 6,519 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced five deaths from COVID-19 and 384 new infections on Friday.
Of the new cases, 187 were recorded in Riyadh, 68 in the Eastern Province, 55 in Makkah, 24 in the Northern Borders region, 10 in Madinah, six in Hail, five in Asir, five in Najran and three in Jazan.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 369,922 after 309 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 6,519 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

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