In Saudi Arabia it is now a reality for millions of Saudi women as they begin to make inroads, breaking into fields and professions that were considered men’s bastions, and asserting their presence. They are so determined that they want the world to know they will not be stopped by cynics or doubters. The issue came to the fore when Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al-Saud, the President of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports, used an international forum to lash out at those who were cynical about the recent changes in the status of women in in the kingdom.
“There is a determination not to allow us to create a new narrative. My question is: why? You ask us to change, and then when we exhibit change, you come at us with cynicism,” she said at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.
“We’re not doing gender equality because the West wants it, or because it will target Human Rights Watch and get them off our backs, or because Amnesty International is going to say ‘Great, good job’ . We’re doing it because it is right.”
In recent months, a string of women have been appointed to high-profile posts in the kingdom.
“You ask us to change but then when we begin to exhibit change you come to us with cynicism,” she told a panel at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos in 2018.
Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Full Biography and Profile
Born 1975 in Riyadh, Princess Reema Bint Bandar Bin Sultan Al Saud is the daughter of former Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan. She is a graduate of George Washington University, and served as an as an adviser to the Crown Prince office. She is also known for her fashion business and philanthropy.
She had a career in the private sector before joining the kingdom’s General Sports Authority where she has championed women’s participation in sports and focused on increasing women’s empowerment.
Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud made history in August 2016 when she was appointed Deputy for Planning and Development at the General Sports Authority where she led diversity and inclusion, the development of the Kingdom’s sports economy and strategic partnerships.
In 2017, she was appointed president of the Mass Participation Federation, becoming the first woman to lead a multi-sports federation in Saudi Arabia, driving communities towards a more active lifestyle.
In 2013, she founded Alf Khair, a social enterprise to boost the professional capital of Saudi women.”
In 2011, she founded and became the Creative Director of Baraboux.
She served for seven years as the CEO of Alfa International, Harvey Nichols Riyadh, focusing on multi-brand luxury retail in Saudi Arabia. She led the way towards gender integration in the workplace, bolstering the active involvement of Saudi women in retail operations.
In 2014, Forbes Middle East magazine selected Princess Reema as one of the most powerful 200 Arab women.
Through her “10KSA” health awareness-raising initiative, she brought together more than 10,000 women in December 2015 at a football stadium in Riyadh and achieved a Guinness Book of World Record for organizing the World’s Largest Human Awareness Ribbon.
She joined the THNK Amsterdam School for Creative Leadership in 2014 and 2015.
Princess Reema attended George Washington University (1994 – 1999) and Graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Museum Studies.
Princess Reema, who comes from a family deeply involved in diplomatic and political work, is the 11th Saudi ambassador to Washington, a position held by her father, Bandar Bin Sultan, who served for 22 years, and her uncle, Turki Al Faisal.
Her other uncle Saud Al Faisal was the most prominent and longest-serving Saudi minister of foreign affairs (1975-2015).
Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, a leading entrepreneur and philanthropist. Prior to her appointment, she was vice president of women’s affairs at the General Sports Authority (GSA), a position she held since 2016. She was also named president of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports in 2017 and appointed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in August 2018.
Princess Reema’s father was a former ambassador to the US, and she spent several years there during her youth. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in museum studies from George Washington University. When she returned to Saudi Arabia in 2005, she assumed CEO positions for Al Hama LLC and Alfa International. She launched her own handbag brand, Baraboux, in 2013. She also founded the private equity fund Reemiyah and co-founded Yibreen, a women’s day spa.
Princess Reema is one of the founding members of the Zahra Breast Cancer Association in Riyadh. She is also a member of The World Bank’s Advisory Council for the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative.
She has spoken publicly about the inclusion of women in the Saudi work force, describing the reforms as “evolution, not Westernization.”
She spoke at the Atlantic Council in Washington about the Kingdom’s efforts to tackle bigger issues than women being allowed to drive or attend football games, which she described as “quick wins.” Problems such as domestic violence demanded greater scrutiny, she said.
Princess Reema also spoke about providing women with careers in a currently male-dominated region.
Princess Reema Bint Bandar Bin Sultan as the Saudi Arabia’s first female ambassador to the U.S.A
Saudi Arabia has appointed its first female ambassador to serve as its top diplomat in the United States, pulling a son of King Salman back to the kingdom to serve as deputy defence minister amid deteriorating ties with the US after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
Princess Reema Bint Bandar Bin Sultan became ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the US by royal decree on February 23, 2019 pledged shortly after she was appointed the first Saudi woman ambassador to the US not to spare any effort in serving her country, leaders and fellow citizens. She already built a strong reputation through her efforts as a global ambassador for positive social change and as one of the most visionary voices for a more conjoined world.
“I extend the sincerest thanks and deepest gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince — may God protect them — for the generous and precious trust by appointing me as ambassador to the United States of America. I will, God willing, serve my country, its leaders and all its people, and I will spare no effort to do so,” Pricess Reema Bandar Al-Saud posted in Arabic to her 78,000 followers on the microblog.
Now More inclusive Saudi Arabia, Says Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud
Now that the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia has been lifted, there will be no turning back as the Kingdom moves forward to a more inclusive future, Princess Reema bint Bandar said in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“It’s a relief and now, honestly, the onus is on us to take the next step forward in the growth of the inclusion of women in our community,” the executive vice president of the General Sports Authority said in an interview that aired a day after the ban was lifted.
“I’m wonderfully excited. I’m excited for everybody that actually stayed up and got in the car at midnight to take this drive because the symbolism of that is that we’re taking control, but we’re taking control collectively,” the princess said. “This isn’t a singular activity, this isn’t an anomaly. This is our current state, and this is the future state. This isn’t something you go back from.”
Princess Reema credited the “monumental shifts” that have taken place in the past year since Mohammed bin Salman was appointed crown prince. “We went from a community saying no, do not participate in sports, to women entering the stadiums, to traveling the world with young female athletes and that’s just in my small sector.”
The princess said a “critical conversation” about the country’s guardianship law is already happening. “Everyone is having this conversation, the women in government are having the conversation. The timeline of this change is not what I’m in control of, but the dialogue and the narrative is there,” she said
“I can tell you as a divorced mother of two, this is urgent…Is it going to happen today? I couldn’t tell you. Would I like to see it in the near future? Absolutely.”
Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud was one of the first to retweet Arab News’ animated online illustration of a Saudi woman driving, titled “Start Your Engines,” by renowned artist Malika Favre.
- Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud Biography and Profile (Gulf News / Goodreadbiography)