On the 16th of April, the prestigious George Washington University in Washington D.C., USA saw visitors enter its premises to attend the newest forum dedicated to honoring the journey and accomplishments of Saudi Arabian women. The inaugural edition of The AboutHer Global Forum (AGF) entitled “Saudi Women On The Road To Vision 2030” comprised a series of talks designed to highlight leading Saudi women from various sectors at the forefront of the country’s advancement and progress, specifically focusing on their efforts within the Kingdom and beyond in ensuring Saudi Arabia’s successful transformation by the year 2030.
The event saw a full house of attendees from within the university and visitors from outside the institution. The evening kicked off with a keynote speech by Editor-in-Chief of Sayidaty and Arrajol magazines, Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi, who talked about Saud Arabia’s recent efforts at becoming a fully-inclusive society, one where every citizen has a role to play in the country’s greater vision, and one where Saudi Arabian women are driving growth, leading change, and inspiring the nation. He also discussed the importance of a platform like AGF.
“AGF has been envisioned as an annual platform through which Saudi Arabia’s most innovative, inspirational, and outstanding women at the forefront of our ongoing transformation are highlighted and honored […] This new journey we have chosen to embark on can only be possible when we first and foremost support the visions, talents, efforts, and improved rights of all women in the Kingdom,” he said.
Al-Harthi’s speech was then followed by two panel sessions, the first one entitled “Inspiring Beyond Borders: Perspectives From Saudi Women Across The Globe” and the second one titled “Change From Within: Perspectives From Saudi Women On The Ground.” Moderating the discussions was Dr. Reem Daffa, Vice President and Executive Director at the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC).
Each panel session featured a stellar lineup of speakers including: Farah AlSofyani, a public speaker on women's empowerment and a holder of an MS in Biotechnology and Drug Discovery at John Hopkins University; Lama AlHawas, a cancer researcher at Georgetown University, Hesa AlYahya, a women's empowerment advocate and student of political science and economics; Liz Feld, President of The Suzanne Wright Foundation and former Director of News Information at ABC News; Safa Turkustani, a spokesperson for Saudi women in the US; and William F. B. O’Reilly, political columnist for Newsday and current board member at the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale.
Over the course of the evening, panellists covered a range of pertinent topics, from the role Saudi women can play today in moving the Kingdom forward to the proliferation of stereotypes about Saudi Arabian women in Western media and how Saudi women and the country as a whole are trying to present a more honest, accurate picture in response. AlHawas elaborated on the latter topic, particularly on how Saudi Arabian women are rising above the overall unconstructiveness and instead focusing on a greater objective, saying, “Western media should focus on the reality and successes of Saudi women. We are happy to contribute to this role abroad through our education and achievements. We do not do this for ourselves but for future generations.”
Panellists also discussed the importance of not only having a state that today is striving to support the empowerment of women to become changemakers and leaders but also the importance of Saudi women working to empower each other as well. Speakers highlighted the need to empower oneself through knowledge and skill acquisition, as well as the importance of pursuing formal education and of networking with other inspiring women. Speakers like AlSofyani also discussed other pertinent issues that can contribute to the successful achievement of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, such as the importance of collecting data in the Kingdom to develop local industries and better people’s lives.