Melania and Ivanka Trump hail progress by Saudi women

Donald Trump’s wife and daughter on Sunday praised Saudi Arabia’s progress in empowering women.

“Saudi Arabia’s progress, especially in recent years, is very encouraging,” Mr Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka, told a group of Saudi women in Riyadh, where the US president was making his first foreign visit since taking office in January.

“But there’s still a lot of work to be done and freedoms and opportunities to continue to fight for,” she said at a roundtable led by Princess Reema bint Bandar, deputy president of the Women’s Sports Authority.

“Around the world women continue to achieve unprecedented levels of rights and freedoms. Today you all stand on the front lines of the fight for gender equality,” she said.

First lady Melania Trump also praised the advances being made by Saudi women during a visit to a General Electric all-female service centre in Riyadh.

Speaking to the 200 female employees about her roles as first lady and a mother, she said it was about “finding the balance”.

Mrs Trump later tweeted: “Enjoyed talking to the incredible women working hard GE_Saudi service center. Great strides being made towards the empowerment of women.”

Saudi Arabia’s conservative society imposes several restrictions on women in public life, including preventing them from driving. However, a series of reforms under the late King Abdullah and his successor, King Salman, have seen a gradual easing of these limits. A royal decree earlier this month reportedly stipulated that women were no longer required to obtain a male guardian’s consent to carry out certain activities.

Riyadh is also seeking greater participation of women in the workforce under a programme of social and economic reforms launched last year as part of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 strategy to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil.

In February, a woman was appointed to head the Saudi stock exchange, Tadawul, while another was appointed as head of the major bank Samba.

“The stories of Saudi women, such as yourselves, catalysing change, inspire me to believe in the possibility of global women’s empowerment,” said Ivanka.


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