Faces of Tomorrow: Salma AlRashid, The First Female Voter in Saudi Arabia

BY Ayesha Sohail Shehmir Shaikh / Sep 15 2020 / 11:25 AM

Women 20 Sherpa, Salma is the Chief Advocacy Officer of philanthropic women’s empowerment society Al-Nahda

Faces of Tomorrow: Salma AlRashid, The First Female Voter in Saudi Arabia

Having participated in a range of local committees to influence social development, Salma AlRashid presently represents Saudi Arabia at the Women 20, a G20 organisation established in 2015 to empower women in the workforce and foster gender equality. In addition, as Chief Advocacy Officer of Riyadh-based, 58-year-old non-profit organisation for women, Al-Nahda, Salma has dedicated herself to women’s rights and diversifying the economy to build a nation that’s more resilient, shrewder and goal-oriented.

Bazaar chats with her here.

Throughout your career and with your position as the Women 20 Sherpa, what are some of the significant projects you’ve been part of?

I have always aspired to be part of something greater than myself and to initiate the turning of wheels of real change. We live in a complicated and unjust world, where not everyone has equal rights and fulfilling experiences. I strongly believe that by building a globally inclusive culture, where all voices are heard regardless of age, sex, race, religious beliefs and political affiliations, we can make the world more just, and equitable for all.

I chose to motivate and inspire others to be proactive in sharing skills and knowledge with the world. So, I can say that this is my personal, most significant lifetime project with some rewarding accomplishments: I became the first certified volunteer administrator in the Arab world, a coach, mentor and trainer and the first female voter in Saudi.

Why is it important now more than ever to promote gender-inclusive social and economic growth in the Kingdom?

Amidst a pandemic that is expected to cause unprecedented global economic downturn, gender equality must be on top of every government’s agenda, as women can become the agents of recovery on the way to building a stronger and more resilient world.

In the lead-up to the G20 Summit in November we, the W20, have scaled up our efforts by launching an advocacy campaign with a proactive call to action underpinned by the message, “If not now, when?”.
This is a pivotal time for women’s empowerment in the country with a groundbreaking period of transformation focused on diversifying the economy. Saudi’s Vision 2030 aims to build a vibrant society, thriving economy and ambitious nation, but it can’t be achieved without the full and equal participation of its women.

Having represented Saudi at the Women 20 since 2018, what are some of the ways you ensure the goals are aligned with Saudi Vision 2030?

Founded in 2015, the W20 has marked a turning point by bringing gender equality to the forefront of international dialogue and paving the way to a more gender-responsive international economic governance. As it enters its fifth anniversary during the G20 Saudi Arabian presidency, the W20 sits on a robust foundation with a transnational network of delegates representing non-government women’s organisations, civil society, female entrepreneurs, businesses and think tanks across the G20 member states.

As an advocate of gender equality and financial inclusion, what’s your vision for Saudi five years from now?

I believe that the recent reforms enabling women to be active, economic contributors will positively impact our nation’s development. Saudi Arabia is on a trajectory of transformation that is happening rapidly, where I foresee women actively, and proactively, participating in a robust economy where there is more representation of women at the highest levels of decision-making. Attaining full and gender-equitable financial inclusion of women will unleash economic growth that is currently underutilised.

In your view, what are the crucial benefits that can be achieved by diversifying the economy and with greater participation of women in the workforce?

Greater inclusion of women in the workforce leads to increased economic activity and paves the path for women to participate in the top ranks of academia, industry, government and the non-profit sector. If we mitigate the foregone contribution to global GDP through financially including women in diverse economies, society as a whole would reap the benefits of further economic growth, not just women, but for the society as a whole. An inclusive approach is the only way to ensure a robust economy.

What is a personal dream you have for yourself or your country?

I am a realist, and with the rapidly evolving positive changes pertaining to the legal reforms for women we see today in our country and the region despite political and economic turmoil, I know that we do not need to dream. We must remain focused on getting the work done. I believe in our country’s vision, aspirations and determination to ensure a better tomorrow and an equitable future that delivers for all.

From Harper's Bazaar Arabia's September 2020 Issue.