Princess Reema bint Bandar: Saudi Arabia’s first female ambassador

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A Saudi royal decree by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in his role as the King's deputy, was issued on Saturday appointing Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud as the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States with a ministerial ranking, making her the Kingdom’s first female ambassador.

Princess Reema is the daughter of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who also served as Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US from 1983 to 2005. Prince Bandar was previously the Secretary General of Saudi Arabia’s National Security Council and he also served as Director General of the General Intelligence Presidency.

The move was hailed by many as a great step for the Kingdom, including Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Russia, Dr. Rayed Krimly.

“The first female Saudi ambassador is the right woman in the right place. She is the best person to represent the aspirations and liveliness of our youthful vision in Washington,” Ambassador Krimly told Al Arabiya English.

“She is the granddaughter of Prince Sultan and King Faisal, and her father is Prince Bandar and her uncle Prince Saud; a princess who has known Washington since her childhood, and works passionately and actively to serve her King and country. She is keen in all her posts to include development and vision for all segments of our society, not just the elite. May God prolong her success always,” he added.

Princess Reema's grandfather, Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, served as the Saudi defense minister and was the Kingdom's Crown Prince until his death in 2011. Her maternal grandfather was former Saudi King Faisal bin Abdulaziz, whose son is Prince Saud al-Faisal, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia.

A graduate of George Washington University in Washington, DC, she has been active in the public and private sectors of Saudi Arabia, working toward women empowerment.

In 2013, the princess founded Alf Khair, a social enterprise with a mission to provide access to opportunities for Saudi women by offering professional guidance and management.

In 2016, Princess Reema was appointed as the Undersecretary of the Women’s Division in the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia. A year later, she became the President of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports, making her the first woman to lead a federation covering sporting activities for men and women in the Kingdom. Prior to being appointed as the US Ambassador, she was the Vice President for Development and Planning at the Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority.

Princess Reema had previously said her role was to empower women. “As a woman in government, my role is actually to keep highlighting the issues that will help us move forward holistically, not just for an elite community,” she said in a 2018 CNN interview.

Princess Reema worked with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Education to promote physical education for girls in schools, making way for their participation in several sporting competitions.

She also had a notable role in raising awareness for breast cancer in Saudi Arabia, where she co-founded the Zahra Breast Cancer Awareness Association, as well as organized the world’s largest human pink ribbon in 2010, which entered the Guinness World Records.

Princess Reema was named in Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business in 2014, and was also included on the Forbes Middle East’s 200 Most Powerful Arab Women 2014 list.

The role of women had become a key pillar to the Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to have women play a greater role in society and seeks to raise women’s participation in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent.

Having previously filled many ‘first roles’ for women in the Kingdom, Princess Reema’s latest first is Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, a position formerly held by Prince Khalid bin Salman, who was appointed as Deputy Defense Minister on Saturday.

Saudi King Salman had issued a decree deputizing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “to steer the state’s affairs” throughout the period of the King’s absence during his visit to Egypt to take part in the first joint Arab League-European Union summit.

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