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Riyadh: The Gulf Cooperation Council hosted an International Women’s Day event at the GCC headquarters in Riyadh on March 8, celebrating the accomplishments of women from the Gulf.

On behalf of Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Elkhereiji participated in the celebration, which was also attended by Qatari Minister for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad Al-Muraikhi and several ambassadors.

Elkhereiji stressed that the empowerment of women is an important goal of Saudi Vision 2030, and that the role of women is a “very important element” of society as a whole.

Saudi deputy FM Waleed bin Abdulkarim El-Khereiji speaks during the event. (SPA)

He also highlighted the Kingdom’s focus on protecting women’s rights, eliminating discrimination against them, and supporting them at all levels, adding that Saudi women have become “an essential partner in the transformation, development, and growth march in various fields.”

The deputy minister also noted the difficulties that Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip are currently experiencing due to ongoing Israeli violations of international laws and humanitarian principles, and reiterated the Kingdom’s strong condemnation and denunciation of the “illegal practices and human rights crimes” being committed by Israeli forces against Palestinian women and Palestinian people in general.

He called for an immediate cease-fire, and emphasized the need to ensure the protection of civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law.

The Gulf Cooperation Council hosted an International Women’s Day event at the GCC headquarters in Riyadh on March 8, celebrating the accomplishments of women from the Gulf. (AN photo/Loai El-kellawy)

Dr Hala Al-Tuwaijri, president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission and one of five leading women from the Gulf who participated in a panel discussion at the event, told Arab News: “I feel overwhelmed. It’s such a great honor to be among this group of wonderful, successful ladies from the GCC. But what matters most is that we have this platform starting this year and hopefully continuing to honor women from the GCC countries in all areas.”

The other speakers on the panel were Emirati photographer and anthropologist Noura Al-Neyadi; the secretary-general of Bahrain’s Supreme Council for Women, Lulwa Al-Awadhi; Omani author Jokha Alharthi, the only writer from the Arab world so far to win the Man Booker International Prize; and the secretary-general of the Women’s Cultural and Social Society in Kuwait, Ghada Youssef Al-Ghanim.

“We have seen today samples of women from different sectors, which is a great thing, and we hope to see more and more diversity in the fields and areas where women are getting honored,” Al-Tuwaijri said.

She also stressed her optimism for the future of female empowerment in Saudi Arabia and the wider Gulf region.

“We know that this comprehensive approach to the empowerment of women has achieved its goals,” she said. “We aimed for a 30-percent participation rate by 2030, and this target has already been accomplished by 2021. We are revisiting all of these KPIs and targets for the future. I believe there is no barrier any more for women in Saudi Arabia or the GCC countries. The future is bright. The sky is the limit.”

Dr Hala Al-Tuwaijri, president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission. (AN photo/Loai El-kellawy)

In his opening speech, GCC secretary-general Jasem Albudaiwi lauded the women of the GCC countries, expressing appreciation for their accomplishments.

“Today, we stand in admiration and appreciation for the inspiring GCC women,” said Albudaiwi.

He went on to stress that women have always played a pivotal role in the establishment and growth of societies in GCC countries, and thanked the leaders of those countries for their “unlimited support for GCC women,” which, he noted, is ongoing.

“(The leaders’) directives aim to enhance women’s participation in the blessed journey of the GCC,” Albudaiwi said.

During the ceremony, the five panelists were each presented with a trophy onstage for their “impact on Gulf society.”

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