Inside this dates packaging factory in Saudi Arabia, it is women who run the show.
The factory is operated by 100 Saudi women, who fill the ranks from management, accounting, quality control and packaging, to health and nutrition.
Their colleague, Aqeelah Ali even drives a forklift to transport date packages.
“At first there were some difficulties - driving heavy transport trucks was thought to be for men only,” said Ali. “But I’m happy that I could prove that women can enter into new fields and succeed.”
The Ibn Zaid factory produces and sells dates in Saudi Arabia’s al-Ahsa eastern region.
Al-Ahsa is home to nearly two million palm trees producing over 100,000 tonnes of dates every year, according to local estimates.
The factory was previously run by foreign expat workers, but the owner decided to hire local Saudi women instead, in keeping with the country’s new direction of integrating women into the labor force.
He gradually replaced expat workers with women, and it has been run by women for more than a year.
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has introduced several reforms to increase women’s presence in the public sphere.
In 2017, King Salman bin Abdulaziz announced that the ban on female drivers will be lifted.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also launched the Vision 2030 reform plan, which aims to diversify the Kingdom’s economy and includes increasing women’s labor force participation.