Theresa May meets with royals and young Saudi girls during her trip to the kingdom.
One of the world’s most prominent female leaders hopes her role can inspire women in Saudi Arabia to pursue their goals.
That’s the message British Prime Minister Theresa May took on her recent visit to the conservative kingdom, where women are currently prohibited from driving and limited when mixing with men.
May flew to Saudi on a mission to strengthen trade links between the two countries, telling reporters “it’s important for me as a woman leader and as leader of the Government of the UK to maintain the relationships that are important to us as a country”.
“But I hope also that people see me as a woman leader, will see what women can achieve and how women can be in significant positions,” she said, The Independent reports.
“I’ve talked to the Saudis on a number of occasions now and I raise issues of this sort. I think we have already seen some changes.”
While in the kingdom, May met with Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, the first Saudi female to hold a government position.
The vice-president of women’s affairs of the General Authority of Sports accompanied the prime minister on a tour of Riyadh’s Leadership Institute, where they spoke to schoolgirls playing basketball.
Currently, physical education is also not on the curriculum for female students in public schools.
However things look set to change, as the royal has spoken about her hopes to help women of the nation lead healthier lifestyles.
Authorities will soon grant licences for women’s gyms, with Princess Reema revealing the aim is to eventually open work-out centres in every neighbourhood across the country.
“It is not my role to convince the society, but my role is limited to opening the doors for our girls to live a healthy lifestyle away from diseases that result from obesity and lack of movement,” Princess Reema said, according to Okaz.
What else did May get up to?
During her visit to Saudi, the PM also met with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef.
The nation’s Vision 2030, its post-oils plans, were discussed by the trio, as Britain looks to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal.
‘These new partnerships, on defence and security, trade and the economy, education, healthcare, culture and sport, evidence the breadth and depth of the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia,” said May.
‘We are firm supporters of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, an ambitious blueprint for internal reform that aims to deliver greater inclusivity for all Saudi citizens, something we agree is essential to Saudi Arabia’s long-term stability and success.”
Women in Saudi Arabia
While women’s rights are a controversial topic in the country, changes are most certainly afoot.
Currently, the country prohibits women from taking the wheel, interacting with men, trying clothes while shopping or competing freely in sports.
However the kingdom recently held its first-ever women’s day, a ban on women voting or taking part in elections lifted in 2015, and in 2016 the strict religious police were stripped of their power to stop, question, pursue or arrest people.
The hope is to make the region a more modern, tourist-friendly destination by 2030, and subsequently there have been several calls from prominent figures to lift the controversial driving ban.
There have also been requests to lift strict labour laws, along with a landmark petition asking the government to do away with the male guardianship law.
The government also have plans to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.