Last week I wrote about some of the most effective innovative solutions to the challenges of the 21st century discussed during the global competitive conference held recently in Riyadh.
This week I continue to focus on another equally innovative solution adopted in our country to develop jobs for women in the manufacturing sector.
Jobs have been created for women in education, retailing, business and other sectors, but very little attention has been paid to creating jobs for Saudi women in manufacturing.
Today women make up only two percent of the industrial sector; however, leaders in the manufacturing industry are keen to employ more women in the workforce.
A very impressive panel of leading businessmen in the field of manufacturing and representatives from the Ministry of Labor spoke about the Saudi national process of introducing women into the sector.
It is not an easy process since many families are reluctant to employ their daughters in this new sector and most of them do not have any training or idea about the nature of the jobs available.
Society is slowly rejecting the control and restrictions of fundamentalists who use religion to discriminate against womenSamar Fatany
The experts eloquently described the research involved in addressing the needs and expectations of Saudi women and the awareness campaigns organized to acquaint women with the nature of their tasks assuring their families that the jobs are appropriate for women and do not go against our cultural sensitivities.
Extensive interviews have taken place and special training courses have been conducted. Also special facilities have been established which include nurseries and segregated entries, and of course comfort and safety measures have been implemented.
Not many of us know about these detailed preparations and indeed it is comforting to hear about the amount of government support and the initiatives of business leaders which entail serious planning and research to ensure the smooth integration of women into the manufacturing industry.
According to professionals in the field, women have so far demonstrated great efficiency and are more skilled than men in packaging or in delicate work requiring fine finishing and an artistic touch.
Industrialists urge their participation and believe that they can add value to the manufacturing industry and that their employment would be a great asset to many factories across the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, the continuing process of the integration of professional women into the workforce is quite remarkable and deserves wide recognition.
Saudi women represent 57 percent of the nation’s university graduates and many are highly qualified and talented.
They have proven their capabilities in new fields and have gained the confidence of the business community through discipline and hard work.
They continue to be in high demand by large businesses and government departments. Society is slowly rejecting the control and restrictions of fundamentalists who use religion to discriminate against women.
The negative attitudes against women that were dominant as a result of distorted Islamic rulings imposed by hardliners are gradually disappearing.
Conservative families are less reluctant to allow women to work and a large segment of society has welcomed their participation in fields that were frowned upon in the past.
Economists continue to encourage the participation of women to boost the national economy.
The skeptics who doubt the capabilities of women can no longer undermine the aspirations of Saudi women and their eagerness to create a more progressive society.
The government has introduced gradual reforms to influence political, social and economic progress.
However, there are still some major issues that continue to delay our progress, such as a weak educational system, poor healthcare services and the lack of public transportation.
An innovative approach to the implementation of these necessities should not be delayed. Saudi society cannot afford to be complacent and lag behind the rest of the world.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015.
Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”