However the daughter of the US President added there is still more to be done as she visited the kingdom.
Ivanka Trump has met with a group of leading Saudi female leaders to discuss female economic empowerment, admitting there is “still a lot of work to be done” in the kingdom.
The first daughter is currently in Saudi Arabia, as she accompanies her father, US President Donald Trump, on his first foreign trip since taking the presidency.
Ivanka, who serves as an advisor in her father’s government, convened with 15 local female leaders at Riyadh’s Tuwaiq Palace on Sunday, donning an elegant powder-blue suit.
“In every country, including the United States, women and girls face challenges,” Trump’s eldest daughter told the group, The Washington Post reports.
“Saudi Arabia’s progress, especially in recent years, is very encouraging. But there’s still a lot of work to be done and freedoms and opportunities to continue to fight for.”
This morning I participated in a powerful and constructive dialogue with an amazing group of Saudi Arabian women leaders. The need to empower and engage women transcends borders and cultures. Whether in the United States or Saudi Arabia, we must recognize that empowering women is key to driving economic transformation. #WomensEconomicEmpowerment #POTUSAbroad
The first daughter acknowledged the current ban on females in Saudi driving, suggesting its existence was more of a cultural issue.
“Women driving is not a religious issue as much as it is an issue that relates to the community itself that either accepts it or refuses it,” she said.
Both Ivanka and First Lady Melania Trump have attracted headlines during their Saudi visit for not wearing headscarves.
Landing in the capital, Melania Trump adhered to the Muslim-majority nation’s modest dress code in a black Stella McCartney jumpsuit, accessorised with an oversized gold belt and Christian Louboutin stilettos.
However when Michelle Obama travelled to Saudi Arabia in 2015 with then-President Barack Obama, Donald Trump scolded the First Lady for not covering up her hair.
“Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted. We have enuf enemies [sic],” Trump tweeted at the time.
The dress code in Saudi Arabia is governed by Sharia law, which requires women to dress modestly, however, non-Muslim women are not required to wear the headscarf.
Women’s rights in Saudi
Currently, Saudi Arabia prohibits women from taking the wheel, interacting with men, trying clothes while shopping or competing freely in sports.
However the kingdom has made strides in recent years, most recently relaxing laws to let women benefit from some government services without needing permission from a male guardian.
Saudi Arabia 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.