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Interview with Al Jawahira Abdullah Al Arifi

Wife of Honorable Saudi Arabia Ambassador in Pakistan

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

(She is proactive in the promotion of various socio-economic and cultural activities and programs in the country. She has been rigorously engaged in the welfare of children of lesser of God in Pakistan i.e. Sweet Homes and Orphanage Centers etc. She is great speaker having scholarship/expertise on Islam, Diplomacy, and Event Management. She is great advocator of strong bilateral relations between the two countries. She tends to stage different folk and musical shows in Pakistan for the lively interaction and promotion of better understanding of cultures).


Which of the major sector of your economy/society where women are contributing good things?

Saudi Arabian women are now leading in many fields. They are now in more profitable propositions. They have proved themselves as successful entrepreneurs, marketing gurus, media expertise, event managers, prudent bankers, efficient lady doctors, business leaders and the last but not the least, computer experts. Opportunities are unrestrained and prospects are even brighter for the women to excel in the future in many diversified fields.

Do you have Women Chamber of Commerce in your country? What is its role in the fields of SME, IT and other sectors of economy?

Yes, we have Women Chamber of Commerce which is playing a decent role in the promotion of women empowerment in the country. It is providing basic skills to all the interested women in the country.

According to a research study at present, there are more than 20,000 firms owned by Saudi women; these range from ordinary retail businesses to various types of industry. The number of women registered in local chambers of commerce and industry is on the increase day by day. The Jeddah chamber, for example, has more than 2000 women members out of a total membership of 50,000. In Riyadh chamber, the figure is over 2,400 out of a total of 35,000 members and this represents a fourfold increase in just ten years. Businesswomen registered with the Eastern Province chamber number more than 1,000 out of a total of 14,000.

Moreover, the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce has recently established the “Khadija bint Khwailid Center” to provide services for businesswomen facilitate business opportunities and provide guidance to encourage women to run their own business.

Saudi businesswomen appreciate the efforts of the government as well as the local chambers of commerce for supporting them and providing them with service. Due to an increase in the number of Saudi businesswomen, the government has had to revise its 30-year-old labor laws and business proceedings to include women.

Now, Saudi women have substantial assets in real estate, jewelry, precious stones and metals. The new opportunities offered to women would include media and marketing, IT, banking and investment.

With the support of public-private sectors, efforts are being made to establish women specific projects that will employ more and more qualified Saudi women. The government has also allocated land for industrial projects that will employ women. Plans are also under way to establish an Industrial Training Institute for Women in Jeddah; the institute plans to train Saudi women in the manufacture of readymade dresses. One of the main salient features of Saudization drive aims to employ more women in the public and private sector.

What is the level of women entrepreneurship in your country?

Saudi Arabia’s macro-economy is stable and sustainable. It widens the scope of women entrepreneurship in the country. Gradually and surely Saudi women entrepreneurship level is on the rise in many fields. Now they have their own businesses. Information technology, software houses, handy crafts, stones polishing etc. are the new businesses owned by women in the country. Women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia are now establishing and managing more small and medium sized entities than at any time in the past and this trend is growing.

Saudi men have traditionally been the entrepreneurs but our women are no longer standing in the shadows. They have stepped into the light and have become the backbone of society. We in the Saudi Arabia Kingdom are fortunate to have well educated, financially powerful women.

Do Saudi Arabian women have the right of suffrage (Vote)?

The government has already announced the right of suffrage to be given in the future. Nevertheless, they are performing excellent jobs in Shura Council and Chambers of Commerce which are done through majority vote. Saudi women are also doing wonders in local councils. So they are not debarred from the voting in true sense.

Why women are suffering in most of the Muslim Countries? Suggest some measures to eliminate it.

Our religion Islam guarantees the role of women in the formation of a healthier and productive society. I think Islam protects the concept of partnership, participation, persuasion and progression associated with women for the wellbeing of the family, clan, group, society or a nation. It has multiplier socio-economic effects. It would enhance the levels of civility, responsibility, dutifulness and above all self-reliance. There should be no obstacle for the onward march of feminist participation or contribution in the world.


What are your comments about some of the European countries legislation towards Muslim women?

With the passage of time, Muslim women have become citizenship of these European countries. They have been living in these countries for many generations. They respect the law of the land but in return law of land should respect their basic rights of privacy, veil, education or dress code etc.

Would you please tell us some ongoing social (health, education etc.) projects sponsoring by your country in Pakistan?

In time of national crisis or natural calamities, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stood first with the government and people of Pakistan. The government of Saudi Arabia has been initiating many notable projects in the fields of education, health, clean drinking water, agriculture, and communications. Most recently, Saudi Development Fund has already launched many meaningful projects in the country for the helping the suffering and struggling people from poverty, disease, hunger and insecurity etc. Moreover, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Relief Camp has its office in Islamabad taking care lots of projects related to education, health and clean drinking water. It is also taking care about rehabilitation activities in the different troubled parts of the country ravaged from terrorism. We would glad to announce that this Camp is considering to build new 5000 homes with full of various educational, health centers.

Do you think that there should be close cooperation between women chamber of commerce between the two countries?


We share a strong bond of affinity among the women of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. We stress the need to have greater collaboration between the women of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia for strengthening socio-cultural ties between the two countries. I believe that regular interaction between the women of two countries could be beneficial for their joint collaboration in various fields. Our Embassy in Pakistan, Islamabad has already taken many initiatives for encouraging the Saudi and Pakistani women to interact for mutual benefit.

What are the media images of women in your country?

It stands for respect, dignity and responsibility. Saudi media gives true reflections of Islam associated with women. Our media is responsible towards their rights of privacy, veil, clothes and they are not used for the maximization of profits and achieving larger market shares in the race of cut-throat competition of survival.

How you respond different programs of Pakistani government towards greater empowerment of its women?

I personally think that women empowerment programs of Pakistan’s government would definitely further increase the productive role of women in the development. It would further enhance women participation in the decision making and improve living standards. It would consolidate their financial independencies in the days to come.

How you define the different roles of Saudi Arabia women?

Women have been rigorously engaged with the socio-economic prosperity of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since its inception. They played very important role in the building of a strong family, productive society and of course a progressive nation. They are now more independent in their decision making within the parameters given by constitution, society and Islam.

In Saudi culture, women have their integrity and a dignified special life. A Saudi Arabian women acts as a trustworthy life partner to her husband, a caring mother to her kids, an obedient daughter to her parents and the last but not the least, a lovely sister to her brothers.

Islam protects the basic rights of women which have already been institutionalized in every walk of life in Saudi Arabia. With the passage of time, women have achieved remarkable positions in every sector of economy, politics, education, nursing, business, investment and small and medium and enterprise. Women in Saudi Arabia have been given the right to vote and run in future municipal elections. Allowing women to stand and vote in municipal elections is a big step towards political reform. The right for women to join the all-male Shura Council could turn out to be even more significant as it is the most influential political body in the country. Now we have the country’s first co-educational university, a first female cabinet member, and our government has already promulgated many laws against domestic violence.

What is the importance of family to Saudi Arabian women?


In every sociological paradigm and political science philosophy, a family has been treated as one of the most important unit of societal development, political interaction and the last but not the least, reaching to national concusses. To us family is the first place of learning, center of love and affection, hub of reliability and definitely an ideal place for character building. Saudi Arabian women tend to work very hard to tame and teach their children valuable lessons and unlimited blessings of Islam, native culture, traditions and heritage etc. They always prepare them to meet with the challenges of life with zeal and full of confidence.

What are the educational and health facilities of your country women?

Education and health are the basic rights of each and every Saudi Arabian woman. They are equally treated with men in the fields of education and health. Women are primarily engaged to study service industries or social sciences. Education, medicine, public administration, natural sciences, social sciences, and Islamic studies are deemed appropriate for women. But now they are adopting new professions of their own choices too.

In my beloved country facilities of education and health are provided free of cost form primary to highest level and from simple surgery to complicated heart operation. We have educational center, schools, colleges and universities along with medical care center, dispensaries and hospitals throughout the country.

Would you please share with us some mega social projects with special reference to women in Saudi Arabia?

Many meaningful mega projects are being carried out in both public and private sectors in the country. New schools, technical educational centers, mother care centers, colleges, universities are being built throughout the country to consolidate the role of women in the development of the country. Constructive, productive and above all supportive environment-oriented activities/programs/projects are being provided to women in Saudi Arabia to make them more useful for the country in the future. Now, even private sector is proactive to initiate woman-oriented projects in the country which is very encouraging.

What is the literacy rate of Saudi Arabia women in the population?


Education is one of the basic rights of women in Saudi Arabia. Education is the first giant step towards knowledge which stands for blessing and peace. Visionary leadership of Saudi Arabia has been positive for women education in the country since its independence. Many effective national policies and programs have been drafted and implemented which are now paying dividends. Till 1950s the literacy rate was not encouraging. But afterwards, there has been gradual improvement in this particular sector. Now literacy rate is excellent and up to the mark.

Do you have any discrimination towards women in your native country?

We have no discrimination or spirits of apartheid against women in Saudi Arabia. Their basic rights are protected by Islam and our constitution. They have the rights to live a decent and qualitative life. They have the liberty to excel in business, education, medical profession, research, engineering and many other related fields.

How you elaborate the Islamic status of a woman?

Islam provides us complete code of life. Much earlier than the dark ages of Europe, and subjugation of male domination taboos around the ancient world, Islam blessed women a complete set of rights, not confined to property, education, respect, dignity and health for more than fourteen centuries.

The Islam gave women economic and social rights long before such rights were attained by Western women. From the beginning of Islam, women have been legally entitled to inherit and bequeath property, holding their wealth in their own names even after marriage, without obligation to contribute that wealth to their husband or their family. Islamic rights of women are highly appreciated even in the West.

How you differentiate Saudi Arabian woman with Pakistani woman?

Women of both the countries do not share any significant difference. Both have their own traditions, cultures, heritages and histories to embark on. Both live a respectable life according to the teachings of Islam.

Who is your role model in life and what is life to you?

Being Muslim, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him) is our ultimate role model. His whole life holds the best and Immaculate Conception perfection to all of us. Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him) is teacher and preacher to all human beings irrespective of race, color, cast and origin.

What are the social and cultural activities of your country’s women?


Women of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia tend to participate in many interrelated social and cultural activities permitted by our religion Islam, traditions, culture, history and heritage. Women have unique role to perform in the country. They are the custodian of our proud social and cultural events.

What is your message to women of Pakistan?

My message is of hope, struggle, hard work and respect. The women of Pakistan must actively participate in the overall growth of their families because family is the nucleus of productivity, positivity and prosperity. I pray to Allah Almighty for the success of all the women living in Pakistan.

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