Female diplomats as part of the shift in Saudi Arabia
Many things have changed in the past year and a half in Saudi Arabia, a country, which puts huge efforts to shift its economy away from oil and, thus, prepare for the future.
Since his promotion to crown prince in June 2017, Mohammed bin Salman has taken significant steps to reform and modernize Saudi Arabia.
Along with projects like a multi-billion-dollar entertainment city and the development of a hyper-loop system, the country has lifted a decades-long ban on cinemas and has granted Saudi women many socio-economic rights, crucial for perceiving the country as a modern one.
There is another trend, emerging, which is worth mentioning, namely the female diplomats, who are now taking positions in the Gulf country. Belgium announced its decision to post the first female ambassador to Saudi Arabia – Dominique Mineur. Although technically the first female ambassador there was Georgia’s Yekaterina Mayering Mikadze, she was appointed ambassador to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and was based at the mission in Kuwait City as the country had no embassy in Riyadh back in 2010.
Dominique Mineur acknowledges the sweeping changes taking place in Saudi Arabia as women were granted the right to drive, to attend sports games and hold positions that were once reserved for men.
“Yes I will be the first one but I just hope, and sincerely hope, that it’s going to be an anecdote in history very soon,” Mineur says. “And that some other people will follow and some other female ambassadors will come and it will be a small story in the history of the change in Saudi. You know, I have the feeling that the Western world are paying more attention to that than people from the Gulf.”
Another female who spent four years of diplomatic service as the Italian consul general in Jeddah is Elisabetta Martini. She participated in some of the historic reforms in the country by taking part in cultural, promotional and commercial events.
“We contributed to promoting the lifting of the ban on women driving by organizing an event with the most luxurious Italian brand vehicles. We were involved with musical events. We organized an exhibition of movie costumes designed by the four-time Oscar winning Milena Canonero. It was another very challenging exhibition.”
Martini expressed her optimism towards the aim of the Kingdom to achieve the goals outlined in its Vision 2030 reform plan and underlined the willingness of Italy to help in the journey. The Italian diplomat leaves with fond memories of Jeddah, a city which had left a lasting impact on her.
The modernization, which is now taking place in Saudi Arabia came as a surprise to the whole world. Although being heavily criticized, the Kingdom is now an example for how one relatively young country can take very fast and brave steps into becoming a better version of itself. What we now witness happening there was unthinkable only a few years ago. And the big changes are yet to happen.