In a powerful statement, Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US, has firmly addressed calls by tennis legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova to ban the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Finals in Saudi Arabia. Responding to an opinion piece by Evert and Navratilova in the Washington Post, Princess Reema highlighted the significant strides made in gender equity in Saudi Arabia and the importance of not using sports as a platform for personal biases.
Princess Reema's statement, issued on Monday, emphasized the progress women have made in Saudi Arabia, challenging the opinion that the Kingdom should not host the season-ending tennis event. “Sports should not be exploited as a tool to promote personal bias, agendas, or to penalize a society eager to embrace tennis and contribute to its growth,” she stated.
To those who seek to deny our women the same opportunities of others, what I hear clearly is that there is no seat for us at their table. But we welcome you at ours.— Reema Bandar Al-Saud (@rbalsaud) January 30, 2024
A response to:https://t.co/8Bbvm4LHUG pic.twitter.com/JuIqMTTNht
In a tweet, Princess Reema extended an invitation for inclusive dialogue: “To those who seek to deny our women the same opportunities of others, what I hear clearly is that there is no seat for us at their table. But we welcome you at ours.”
The ambassador pointed out that the perception of women in Saudi Arabia as described by Evert and Navratilova fails to acknowledge the considerable advancements made by women in the Kingdom. She expressed disappointment that these tennis icons, once seen as role models and trailblazers, have seemingly turned their backs on Saudi women who have been inspired by them.
Highlighting the opportunities now available to women in traditionally male-dominated fields such as the military, firefighting, law enforcement, and space exploration, Princess Reema refuted the claim that Saudi women are unequal in society. She clarified the changes in guardianship laws, asserting that women no longer require a guardian’s approval for various aspects of daily life.
Princess Reema cited the increasing number of women owning businesses and the equal pay they now enjoy, paralleling the percentage of female-owned start-ups to that of the United States. She emphasized the ongoing work towards gender equality, noting the engagement of women in the workforce and the expanding social and cultural opportunities.
With over 330,000 registered female athletes in the Kingdom, including 14,000 in tennis, and many serving as coaches, mentors, referees, and sports doctors, Princess Reema highlighted the active participation of women in sports. She underscored the importance of recognizing these achievements rather than portraying Saudi women as voiceless victims.
Dismissing assertions that guardianship laws restrict women’s freedom, the ambassador stressed the need for factual information and highlighted the contributions of Saudi female athletes in challenging perceptions about women’s rights.
Princess Reema called for a constructive and inclusive debate on women’s progress, advocating for dialogue free from bias. Her statement reflects a commitment to welcoming diverse viewpoints and underscores the importance of collaborative efforts to advance women’s opportunities globally.