How 2017 has made 2018 a landmark year for women in Saudi Arabia

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The past 12 months has seen an exciting string of landmark reforms that have granted Saudi women with greater freedoms in the kingdom.

The changes fall under the government's Vision 2030 which is committed to enable women to play a greater role in the economy, with a target to lift women in the workforce to 30 percent by 2030 from 22 percent.

Below are snippets of several stories that Al Arabiya English has published in the past year that have been an example of the changes impacting women.

Saudi Arabia has officially announced lifting the ban on women to drive cars, which will be effective in June, following a landmark decision by King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz.

The Royal Decree issued on Saudi women right’s to drive confirmed that the majority of the members of the senior scholars’ council agree that the ruling in this regard clearly demonstrate permissibility, pointing out that the past reservations were based on considerations related to some issues that can neither be confirmed nor denied. The members of the senior scholars see no impediment for the issue of women driving as long as there are enough legitimate and orderly guarantees to avoid those considerations, even if within the scope of doubtful possibility.

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Saudi King Salman appointed three women in top leading roles via an official royal decree.

The first is Dr. Tamadr bint Yousif Al-Rammah, Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Development. She holds a PhD in Radiology and Medical Engineering from the University of Manchester's School of Medicine, and was a Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs for Saudization.

Professor Kawther bint Mousa Al-Arbash was also appointed as a member of the Board of Trustees of the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue.

She holds a BA in Business Administration from King Faisal University and was a member of the Shura Council.

Dr. Ghada Bint Ghunaim Al-Ghunaim has also been named as a member of the Board of Trustees of King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue.

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Saudi women film directors expressed their excitement over the announcement that cinema is finally coming to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi women filmmakers Hajar al-Naim and Hanaa Saleh al-Fassi spoke to Al Arabiya at Dubai International Film Festival about how the decision reflects the new open-to-the-world approach Saudi Arabia is embracing.

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Saudi’s General Security division announced that soldier rank positions will be available for Saudi women in different regions including Riyadh, Mecca, al-Qusaim and al-Madina.

The conditions to apply include that the woman has to be of Saudi origin and to have been brought up in the kingdom, with the exception of women who lived with their fathers abroad due to a government-related responsibility.

They also need to be between the ages of 25-35 with a minimum of a high school education.

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In yet another historic day in Saudi Arabia, on Friday families began to enter the sports stadiums for the first time with the start of round 17 of the Saudi league.

The King Abdullah Sport City stadium in Jeddah opened its doors for Saudi women to attend the Saudi professional League game scheduled between Al Ahli club of Jeddah and al-Batin.

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The Saudi Arabian Professional Squash Association (PSA) is hosting its first Women’s Squash Masters tournament in Riyadh.

The tournament will include 32 international players, including Nada Abo al-Naja, Saudi’s wildcard player.

Nada will be the first and only Saudi national participating in the event, and is set to play against number two seed, French player Camille Serme.

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Saudi Arabia’s first female actress to play a role alongside other men took center stage on Friday in “The Empror’s New Groove” public play in the kingdom.

The actress, Najat Mouftah, expressed her feelings regarding this experience.

Mouftah said: “I am happy to be the first actress to do this. However, I am not sure if there was an actress who preceded me, and was more happy to practise my hobby and talent on stage in a public show”, she said in an interview with Al

“I had previous experiences in doing simple ‘sketches’ on YouTube and Instagram, but I have never been on stage; this is my first time.”

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The first Saudi woman vet, Dr. Noor Ezzat Fatairji, believes that the veterinary profession is the basis for supporting and preserving livestock, noting that there are many efforts exerted by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, as well as animal rights activists in Saudi Arabia.

She told Al Arabiya that "Livestock does not involve just pets, it extends to farm animals, parks, wildlife and fungi.

“We need to strengthen awareness efforts in all relevant sectors, both governmental and private," she added.

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The Jeddah Women's Championship organized the first women's basketball tournament in Saudi Arabia, which was held in Al Jawhara Stadium.

A team from the University of Science and Technology in Jeddah won the competition in the presence of more than 3,000 women, among them gymnasts and boxers.

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For the first time at Jeddah’s al-Jawhara Stadium, Yara Ibrahim al-Namla represented Saudi women in celebrating the kingdom’s National Day by performing in an operetta.

She was joined in the performance by Saudi presenter Ahlam al-Yacoub, whose voice was used in the narration of the scenes.

Regarding her role, al-Namla, 18, said she was nominated by the operetta’s director Munir Al Qahtani and was finally chosen by the Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Entertainment Ahmed Al-Khatib.

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Princess Reema bint Bandar has been appointed President of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports in extensive changes in the Olympic Committee and sports federations announced by Chairman of the General Authority for Sport and Chairman of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee Turki Bin Abdul Mohsen Al-Asheikh..

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Dhoha Abdullah has become the first Saudi female chef in Saudi Arabia where she’s become a head chef at a hotel in Riyadh.

Abdullah, who holds a Master’s Degree in social services from King Saudi University, told Sabq that she began to improve her cooking skills after her family encouraged her and told her she cooked better food than hotels and restaurants did.

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The appointment of the CEO of National Commercial Bank, Sarah al-Suhaimi, as the first Saudi woman to chair the Saudi Arabia stock exchange – Tadawul - the largest bourse in the Middle East, is a step that breaks the male-dominated upper echelons in the finance sector.

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A Saudi woman cardiologist who works for the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School was recently honored, along with 19 other Saudi women, by the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in New York City.

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A Saudi woman, after being certified by the Islamic Studies and Research Center (ISRC), set a milestone by becoming the first woman tourist guide.

Ayesha Khaja said she worked hard to earn a certificate from the ISRC to become the first woman expert on Islamic heritage, which allowed her to register as a tourist guide with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH).

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Women have been named to head Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange and major banks, the institutions have announced.

Samba Financial Group said Rania Mahmoud Nashar had begun work as chief executive officer.

The announcement came three days after the Saudi stock exchange, known as Tadawul, named Sarah al-Suhaimi as chairman of its board.

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There has been celebrations all over Saudi social media blogs over the extraordinary accomplishments of a female Saudi scientist. They have hailed the scientific achievements of Dr. Ghada Almutarie.

Saudis and many Arab social media surfers painted Ghada as pride of all Arabs and Muslims, asserting the worthiness of her research to future Nobel Prize nomination. During Friday prayers, Minister Sheikh Adnan Ibrahim described Ghada as “pride for the entire nation that will change the world of medical care”.

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Women in Saudi Arabia participated for the first time in an all-female marathon.

The 3km marathon, al-Ahsa Runs, welcome 1,500 girls from across kingdom.

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The Saudi Public Prosecution has announced that it is hiring Saudi women as investigation officers. The application process will start on Sunday, February 11, and will continue until March 3, al-Madina Arabic newspaper reported.

Attorney General Sheikh Saud Al-Mojeb said all applicants must be Saudis of good conduct, qualified for the position, have a relevant university degree with no less than a C grade. They should also pass aptitude tests and physical exams to prove their fitness for the position.

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Saudi women may be able to drive taxicabs from June when women in the Kingdom are officially allowed to drive cars, chairman of the Public Transport Authority (PTA) Rumaih Al-Rumaih has said.

The PTA is currently making rules and regulations to enable Saudi women to drive taxicabs that will transport female passengers only, Al-Rumaih told Okaz/Saudi Gazette in an interview.

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