Ryebuck Media director visits Saudi Arabia

Tricia Gurry, director of Ryebuck Media and educational consultant, has just returned from a visit with a group of Australian businesswomen to Saudi Arabia. She briefly reflects on her trip:

What an amazing experience! Whilst in the Kindom, we were the guests of King Abdullah and as such were received by some of the most influential men and women in Saudi Arabia.

The many women we met were inspiring. Women such as Lubna Olayan, CEO of Olayan Financing Co., responsible for 40 odd companies throughout the Middle East. Despite constraints on women in the workplace – traditionally their offices are segregated from their mail colleagues, – she continues to break down barriers. She became the first women in Saudi Arabia to be elected to the board of a public company in 2004, (the Saudi Hollandi Bank). As his HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud, (whom we also met), said, ‘it is no small measure thanks to her that the advancement of women in Saudi Arabia is finally reaching the point of no return’.

We also met Princess Loulwa al-Faisal, the daughter of Queen Effat al-Thunayyan, who set up the first school for girls in 1955 and the first college, (Effat college) for girls in 1999, months before she died. Princess Loulwa is carrying on her mother’s great work in her role as General Supervisor of Effat College. Our visit to Effat College demonstrated again the amazing changes being forged by these inspiring women.

One young university lecturer I met, who often finds herself in trouble with her family and authorities said, ‘I see it as my role, I have to put up with all the difficulties for the sake of the next generation of women’.

One of the most memorable cultural events however, was on a stunning desert evening, sitting on the rooftop terrace of Naseef House, with unparalleled views over Al-Balad (Old Jeddah) and listening to the beautiful voices of evening prayer call from the four Mosques on each side! It was spellbindingly beautiful!!