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.


Twitter: @LujainBenGassem

Saudi Arabia announces launch of Soudah Development Company

Updated 25 February 2021

Saudi Arabia announces launch of Soudah Development Company

  • The company aims to attract more than two million visitors annually, and create 8,000 direct and indirect permanent jobs by 2030
  • Investment of $3 billion in tourism infrastructure and attractions to create a world-class mountain destination in the Asir region

RIYADH: Saudi crown prince and chairman of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Mohammed bin Salman, announced on Wednesday the launch of the Soudah Development Company (SDC) in the Asir region.

The new entity, fully owned by PIF, will lead the development of a luxury mountain destination with immersive cultural experiences. It will be a celebration of natural assets empowering the local and national economies.

Launched to be a key driver of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 ambitions, SDC will infuse SR11 billion ($3 billion) into infrastructure and tourism projects, aimed at enhancing the visitor experience in Soudah and parts of Rijal Alma’a governorate.

The planned developments include 2,700 hotel rooms, 1,300 residential units, and 30 commercial and entertainment attractions.

SDC aims to develop Soudah and Rijal Alma’a into a repeat, year-long sustainable destination for residents and visitors that will contribute an estimated SR29 billion to the Kingdom’s cumulative GDP by 2030.

The company also intends to partner and collaborate with the local community and private sector to build a robust and diverse network of year-long offerings across the hospitality, residential, commercial and entertainment sectors.

It aims to attract more than 2 million visitors annually, targeting adventure-seekers and culture travelers who are looking for one-off experiences. It is also forecast to create 8,000 direct and indirect permanent jobs by 2030.

“Our investment in the Asir region reflects our confidence in the character of the location, which is a rich amalgamation of identity, heritage and experience,” said Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan, PIF governor. “Through careful and considerate development, SDC will provide yet another remarkable destination in the diverse and growing portfolio of Saudi Arabian experiences capturing the imagination of a broad range of investors and travelers.”

The fund will inject at least SR150 billion a year into the local economy and aims to grow assets under management to more than SR7 trillion by 2030.

The destination adds another dimension to Saudi Arabia’s ambitious tourism goals, and complements those destinations created on the Red Sea coast and around the capital city of Riyadh.

Preserving the environmental integrity of the destination will be a priority for the SDC, and the development will follow a rigorous regulatory framework and urban planning code.

Forget the cost, Saudi love affair with oud makes perfect scents

Updated 25 February 2021

Forget the cost, Saudi love affair with oud makes perfect scents

RIYADH: The traditional scent of oud enjoys an enduring popularity among Saudis, but high prices and uncertainty about quality are making many think twice before buying it.

Oud is extracted during winter from trees aged between 70 and 150 years and growing up to 20 meters in height.

These trees generally grow in tropical areas in Asia, especially on mountains and hillsides in India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Gulf countries are the major importers of oud.

Wood oud emits an enjoyable fragrance when burned. Made of aromatic plants, wood oud has been increasingly mixed with aromatic oils in recent years. In Saudi Arabia, people often put wood oud in an electronic incense burner to deliver the desired fragrance.

Bader Al-Mansuri, a Saudi consumer, said that oud is an important tradition in Saudi society and is used for special social occasions as well as religious events, such as the Friday prayer.

Cambodian oud is the go-to option for most Saudis when shopping for the traditional fragrance, followed by the Morki and Kalamantan.

“My favorite is Cambodian oud, which I have been using for a long time,” Al-Mansuri told Arab News. “It’s part of our family tradition and culture, and my grandparents used it and passed it down to us. Oud has a positive moral impact, and is a sign of generosity and respect when you have visitors.”

Al-Mansuri that he only buys oud from well-known brands and companies.

Hammad Al-Shouraihi, another consumer, is a regular user of oud and buys 2 kg every year at a cost ranging from SR4,500 ($1,200) to SR6,000.

“When the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) emerged, I bought oud off websites instead of going to incense shops,” he said, adding that it is difficult to judge the quality of oud bought online since the buyer cannot test the fragrance.

In addition to Cambodian oud, Al-Shouraihi also enjoys the Morki variety as well as other types with mixed substances.

“Vintage Cambodian oud, which is stored for longer periods, is the best. It is an ideal gift for friends or family members,” he said. “I love all perfumes that have oud fragrance or scent. The pandemic has affected oud purchases due to the way it is used and fears that it can transmit the virus.”

However, Ahmed Al-Mutairi believes the pandemic has had little impact on the oud industry.

He buys 100 gm of liquid oud and quarter a kilo of wood oud, paying about SR5,000 for his purchases every year.

“Some oud vendors on streets demand a high price, but they reduce the price to half after one bargains with them,” Al-Mutair told Arab News.

Hassan Al-Rashdi, a sales officer at Nada Oud Store, said that sales reach 5 kg  some days and 10 kg other days.

“Some people prefer different types of oud qualities,” he added, noting that a kilogram of oud can range between SR500-SR5,000, based on its quality and origin.

Al-Rashdi told Arab News that some Saudis prefer the Kalamantan variety. However, he believes Morki oud is the most popular incense for parties, official events and use in mosques.

Khalid Al-Johani, the owner of an online oud store, agrees that Morki oud is the most popular variety among his clients, followed by Kalamantan and Indian in terms of quality.

According to Al-Johani, Indian liquid oud is preferred by the elderly, though Thai oud is fast gaining in popularity.

“To judge the quality of oud, one should check the scent, weight, color and size,” he said.

“Most people buy oud based on the recommendations of others. But experts always check the quality of oud products inside out and ask about the substances inside and the structure.”

Women often prefer liquid mixtures, while men prefer wood oud, Al-Johani said.

Some people are superstitious and believe that oud can cast out devils and genies, he said. However, people say they feel “relieved” and “in good mood” after they smell incense.

Most sales take place before and during Ramadan as well as Eid Al-Adha holidays, he added.

Zaid Al-Qaoud, chairman of Oud Albaraka, said that sales of oud have plummeted in the past year due to the absence of parties and weddings.

“Sales have fallen by 80 percent compared with the previous years,” he told Arab News. “Demand has also decreased because of coronavirus and many people have turned to social media websites to buy oud.”

Most oud stores can be found in central Riyadh, which has about 400 outlets, he added.

“Indonesian oud is very popular in the Gulf region and is the main source of many types of oud in the market that come with different scents.”

He added that old oud gives a better and more beautiful smell than newer products.

It can be difficult for regular consumers to distinguish a high-quality oud from an inferior product. “People have different tastes for oud, but most of them cannot tell original oud from a false one.”

Al-Qaoud, who has been in the business for 20 years, said that many Europeans in Saudi Arabia understand the quality of oud, recalling a regular French customer who said: “I have never smelled a sweet smell like the Taif roses and oud oil.”

Ayed Al-Falih, who is interested in artefacts, said incense burners are made of a type of wood found in Hail farms, with a price ranging between SR100 and SR500.

DiplomaticQuarter: Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan discuss strengthening ties

Updated 8 min ago

DiplomaticQuarter: Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan discuss strengthening ties

RIYADH: Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Shahin Abdullayev recently held a meeting with the joint Saudi-Azerbaijani Parliamentary Friendship Committee of the Shoura Council in Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The meeting was held under the co-chairmanship of Dr. Faiz Al-Shehri, member of the Shoura Council and head of the committee, and examined various ways to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in various fields, especially at the level of parliamentary relations between the Shoura Council and the Azerbaijani parliament.
Abdullayev wished the council success in its new session and expressed his appreciation for the Kingdom’s policies to enhance security, peace and stability in the Gulf region and beyond.
Al-Shehri ran through the Shoura Council’s organizational structure, and highlighted the importance of the diplomatic role played by parliamentary friendship committees.
Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan celebrated the 25th anniversary of their diplomatic relations in February 2017.
The then-Azeri Ambassador in Riyadh Shahin Abdullayev said at the time: “Azerbaijan and the Kingdom, two brotherly Muslim countries, have unique commonalities of a historical, religious and political nature.”

Eastern Province governor receives Netherlands ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Updated 25 February 2021

Eastern Province governor receives Netherlands ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Eastern Province Gov. Prince Saud bin Naif met Janet Alberda, ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Saudi Arabia, in Dammam on Wednesday.
During the meeting, they discussed bilateral relations between the two countries and issues of common interest, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Alberda highlighted the development that the Eastern Province has been witnessing, and wished further progress and prosperity for the Kingdom.
The meeting was attended by the Saudi Honorary Consul to the Kingdom of the Netherlands Sulaiman Al-Suhaimi.
Also on Wednesday, Prince Saud received the regional director of Al Arabiya channel, Mohammed Al-Hekmi, accompanied by a number of employees.
Prince Saud praised the role of the media in highlighting the societal and development accomplishments of the Kingdom in general and the Eastern Province in particular.
The media played an influential role and was an important means of communication, he said.
Earlier, Prince Saud met the US consul general in Dhahran, Nicholle Manz-Baazaoui. Issues of common interest and ways to promote relationships between the two countries were discussed.
Prince Saud stressed the solid ties between the two countries and their common vision on various topics.
He also highlighted the two countries’ joint work toward achieving security and peace in the region and the world, as well as their economic and cultural cooperation.

Who’s Who: Tareq Al-Sadhan, CEO of Riyad Bank

Updated 25 February 2021

Who’s Who: Tareq Al-Sadhan, CEO of Riyad Bank

Tareq Al-Sadhan has been president and CEO of Riyad Bank since April 2019. Before that, he served as the bank’s senior executive vice president from January 2018 to March 2019.
Al-Sadhan worked with KPMG Saudi Arabia, where he spent 18 years rising through the ranks to become one of the youngest partners in the firm’s history.
He was CEO/managing partner and chairman of the advisory committee during his last five years at the company.
Before his current position, Al-Sadhan worked in the Kingdom’s public sector in roles such as adviser to the chairman in the Saudi Fund for Development, acting director general at the General Authority for Zakat and Tax, and deputy governor for supervision at the Saudi Central Bank.
Al-Sadhan holds a bachelor’s degree in administration science from King Saud University, majoring in accounting (1997), and a master’s degree in business management from Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussees, France (2007).
He gained a diploma in international business from the University of Edinburgh in 2006, and a diploma in leadership development and strategy from INSEAD in 2010.
Al-Sadhan is a member of the 2020 World Economic Forum’s Stewardship Board for the Middle East and North Africa, and a fellow of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Saudi Organization for Certified Public Accountants.
He has been an audit committee member at the Public Investment Fund since March 2019, and an advisory board member at Mastercard since March 2018.