Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 July 2019

Saudi Arabia names Princess Reema bint Bandar as its first female ambassador

Riyadh has appointed Princess Reema as its diplomatic representative to Washington

Saudi Arabia has appointed Princess Reema bint Bandar as its diplomatic representative to the US – the first female ambassador in the history of the kingdom.

In a series of royal decrees issued by Saudi Arabia late on Saturday, Riyadh named its current envoy to Washington, Prince Khalid bin Salman, as deputy minister of defence with the ranking of minister, in addition to allocating a bonus of a month's salary to soldiers fighting to the south at the Saudi border with Yemen.

Princess Reema is familiar with US politics and society, having studied at US universities and lived in Washington when her father, Prince Bandar, was ambassador.

Princess Reema’s appointment is a legacy affair. Her father is one of the grandchildren of the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz.

Prince Bandar had an illustrious career as a Saudi official who, along with being the secretary general of the National Security Council and director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, was the kingdom’s ambassador to the US from 1983 to 2005. He retired in 2015.

The princess comes from an entrepreneurial background, and has chaired and co-founded initiatives since returning to Saudi Arabia in 2005.

She serves as president of the mass participation federation and deputy of development and planning for the Saudi sports authority.

She was the first woman to assume these positions, and has spoken publicly about challenges and social barriers she had to defy on a regular basis to do her job.

Princess Reema also worked as an adviser at the office of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Among her achievements is working alongside the Ministry of Education to establish sports education for girls in schools and the participation of women in many sports competitions.

During her work she has championed women empowerment in the kingdom and encouraged the reform programme in Prince Mohammed’s Vision 2030.

The new ambassador visited Washington last year and spoke extensively at research institutes and think tanks about the need to integrate Saudi women fully into the workforce.

Princess Reema is diplomatic, fluent in English and Arabic and is expected to take up the position soon.

Despite that, she is quite critical of western media's perception of Saudi society.

“You ask us to change but then when we begin to exhibit change you come to us with cynicism," she said during the last World Economic Forum.

"And I don’t know how to explain how destructive that is when you wake up every morning and you go into the office and you’re motivating people to make a change for their community.

"We’re so thrilled and so excited. Then the article comes out and it says “This was fabulous, but...” Why but? Do you say that to anyone else?”

Princess Reema co-founded Yibreen, a women's day gym and spa, and was a former executive at Alfa International and Harvey Nichols in Riyadh.

She received her bachelor of arts from Mount Vernon College at George Washington University in 1999 and was the president of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports.

She launched the 10ksa initiative, which holds the Guinness World Record for making the world's largest pink ribbon, symbolising the fight against breast cancer.

Princess Reema was chosen as 16th in the Forbes Middle East magazine for the 200 most powerful Arab women.

Updated: February 25, 2019 01:51 AM

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