Kawin Incubator Program looks to empower Saudi culinary talents

Kawin Incubator Program looks to empower Saudi culinary talents
Kawin Incubator Program looks to empower Saudi culinary talents

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: The envoys of Australia and the US have praised women in Saudi Arabia for their work and achievements across all sectors of the country’s economy.

In a recent interview with Arab News, the US’ Deputy Chief of Mission Alison Dilworth and Australia’s Deputy Head of Mission Kim Ralston reflected on their experiences working alongside Saudi Arabia’s women and witnessing firsthand their perseverance.

“I have been incredibly impressed with the Saudi women I have met here in the Kingdom. From tech and finance to the arts, to diplomacy, Saudi women are achieving new heights, and I am proud to work with them,” Dilworth said.

Each month, in partnership with other embassies, the US Embassy hosts a Women’s Majlis  to celebrate women’s accomplishments, experiences and share expertise in a private and intimate setting.

“Through the Women’s Majlis, a series of monthly events co-hosted with the Australian, New Zealand, German, and British embassies, and with HRH Ambassador Reema bint Bandar, we have explored the themes of ‘Women in Defense,’ ‘Women in Tech,’ ‘Women in the Visual Arts,’ ‘Women in Poetry’ and ‘Women in Shariah Law,’” Dilworth said.

The idea of the majlis was created in 2019 in a collaboration between the American, Australian, British and Canadian embassies in Abu Dhabi.

“We work with Saudi women across all aspects of our work. As an example, Australia and Saudi Arabia enjoy close relations in agriculture and food security, with embassy staff working closely with female counterparts to promote trade and remove barriers,” Ralston said.

Since her arrival in the Kingdom in 2023, Ralston has worked with Saudi Arabia women in the public and private sectors, sports, and the arts.

Ralston said “Saudi women are intelligent and driven. They are open, warm, and passionate about their work. I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing about their goals and objectives, which are not unlike my own.”

“I have particularly enjoyed sharing experiences with women on social policy matters. The talented women at the Quality of Life Program have inspired me as they encourage culture, entertainment, sports, and tourism to flourish in Saudi Arabia,” Ralston added.

She explained how impressed she was by the Kingdom’s focus on ensuring women are represented in areas where they have not traditionally worked, including the military.

When asked how she would characterize the ambitions of the Kingdom’s females, Dilworth said: “Saudi women never stop reaching for the next level.”

“I admire them (they are) fearless,” she added.

She said that when she asks Saudi Arabia women about what they will do next, they immediately say: “I want to run the business, become the next minister, or set the next record.”

The most recent majlis took place in Riyadh on May 21 at the German Embassy and focused on women in the technology sector.

One of the previous events was co-hosted by the US and Australia embassies and titled “Women in Poetry.”

Dilworth said: “We had five outstanding female poets present their original works, which were creative and inspiring. Then, to our surprise, five other women stood up and presented their poems.”

“I was so happy to see women sharing this Saudi pastime and such a key aspect of Saudi culture,” she added.

Dilworth said these events build cooperation between women from Saudi Arabia and the US. “I have witnessed the achievements of US women working in diplomacy over my 27-year career, and I am proud to be a female diplomat.

“Through sharing our stories, and hearing from others, we all add to the journey of women throughout the world who want to achieve and to make the world a better place for all.”

She added that outside the Kingdom and among those who have never visited the country, there are still many misconceptions surrounding Saudi Arabia’s women. People who have not interacted with them are not aware of their successes, drive and ambition.

When asked about her expectations before coming to the Kingdom, Dilworth said: “I did not expect Saudi women to be so prepared, so ready for the next opportunity. I wrongly assumed Saudi women would need to learn various tradecrafts, how to drive, how to run a business.

“What I found was an extremely educated, motivated, and talented workforce of women who had gained experience and knowledge either outside the country or behind closed doors, and when opportunities opened up, they were not only ready but they were also driven to prove what they can do and achieve.”

The US deputy chief of mission said that she encourages those who question the talents and motivations of Saudi Arabia’s women to “come and see for themselves.”

“Come to the Kingdom and meet the women living and working here and advancing Saudi society. Just like there are many misconceptions about the United States that we can correct when visitors come and see our beautiful country, having visitors meet women and interact here in Saudi Arabia is vitally important,” she said.

Ralston said that before arriving in the Kingdom from Australia she knew very little about Saudi Arabia, adding that “it was difficult to find information.

“I arrived with a strong sense of curiosity and was keen to hear about the strides made by women here. I was impressed to hear that Saudi Arabia was recently ranked 15th in the world on wage equality in the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2023.”

When asked what her views on the misconceptions, Ralston said: “Misconceptions don’t concern me — they exist in every country.

“Over time, people’s perspectives of Saudi Arabia will be shaped by their own experiences, particularly as more people visit the country. Around the world, Saudi Arabia also has many female ambassadors making a positive impression.”

This includes those working in the private sector, studying abroad and even serving at the Saudi Embassy, Ralston added.

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