Saudi Arabia governance

12 November 2013

Six women who sit on the kingdom’s Shura Council: Thuraya Obaid, Princess Sara bint Faisal al-Saud, Princess Moudi bint Khalid al-Saud, Lubna al-Ansari, Hayat Sindi and Zeinab Abutaleb

Thuraya Obaid

Position: Deputy chairwoman, Shura Council human rights and petitions committee

Biography: Thuraya Obaid has a history of establishing significant firsts for Saudi Arabia. In 2001, she was appointed executive director of the UN Population Fund and under-secretary-general of the UN. This made Obaid not only the first Saudi woman to work at that level in the UN, but also the first Saudi national to head a UN agency. In 2002, she was responsible for the first Arab Human Development Report, which said the Middle East was wasting the talents of half its people. Obaid had a long career at the UN, starting in 1997, with a focus on empowering women across the Middle East and Asia. In 1963, she became the first Saudi woman to receive a government scholarship to study in the US. In February 2013, Obaid was named deputy chairwoman of the human rights and petitions committee of the 150-member Shura Council, an advisory body that debates laws in the kingdom.

Contact Tel: (+966) 11 482 1666

Princess Sara bint Faisal al-Saud

Position: Chairwoman of the board of trustees, Effat University

Biography: Princess Sara bint Faisal al-Saud is the daughter of King Faisal, who ruled Saudi Arabia from 1964 to 1975. She played a key role in establishing one of the first charitable organisations in the kingdom, Al-Nahda Foundation, in 1962. The organisation aims to help women take on a greater role in Saudi society. Princess Sara is chairwoman of the organisation. She was married to Prince Mohammed bin Saud al-Saud, who was governor of the Al-Bahah province and a member of the Allegiance Council, which was created to decide on the future line of succession in the kingdom, until his death in 2012. Princess Sara is also chairwoman of the board of trustees for Effat University, a privately owned, non-profit higher education establishment for women, and the Maharat Centre, which helps support the education of children with learning difficulties.

Contact Tel: (+966) 12 636 4300

Princess Moudi bint Khalid al-Saud

Position: Secretary-general, King Khalid Foundation

Biography: Princess Moudi bint Khalid al-Saud is the daughter of King Khalid, who ruled the kingdom from 1975 to 1982. She is married to Prince Abdulrahman bin Faisal, son of the late King Faisal. Currently, Princess Moudi is secretary-general of King Khalid Foundation, a charitable organisation set up by the family of the late king in 2001. She is also chairwoman of its investment committee. The foundation focuses on investments, research and training to improve social and economic development in the kingdom. It has also launched a campaign against domestic abuse of women. Princess Moudi is secretary-general of Al-Nahda Foundation and is a board member of Saut, which works with children with Down’s syndrome in Saudi Arabia. In 2013, the princess was one of 30 women appointed for the first time to the Shura Council.

Contact Tel: (+966) 11 202 0202

Lubna al-Ansari

Position: Associate professor, King Saud University

Biography: Lubna al-Ansari holds a raft of senior positions in the health sector in Saudi Arabia. She is head of the clinical practice guidelines committee at King Saud University, a part-time consultant family physician and a professor of family medicine at the university’s College of Medicine. Al-Ansari is also a master and fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners in the UK. She is a member of the Saudi Society of Family and Community Medicine. Since joining the Shura Council at the start of 2013, Al-Ansari has been elected deputy chairwoman of its health affairs and environment committee. She has also been selected to represent female members at the inter-parliamentary union. Al-Ansari is on the board of trustees of the Guidelines International Network, which aims to use evidence-based healthcare to improve global standards of healthcare provision.

Contact Tel: (+966) 11 467 0836

Hayat Sindi

Position: Founder and chief executive officer, Institute for Imagination and Ingenuity (i2)

Biography: Hayat Sindi left Saudi Arabia in 1991 in order to study abroad in the UK. After spending a year learning English and sitting her A-levels, she enrolled at King’s College London and earned a degree in pharmacology. She then went on to Cambridge University, where she became the first Gulf woman to earn a doctorate in biotechnology. Sindi is currently a visiting scholar at Harvard University in the US. In 2011, she launched i2, a regionally focused foundation that aims to encourage and support entrepreneurship among scientists, engineers and technologists. In 2012, Sindi was appointed a goodwill ambassador for the UN Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation (Unesco). She is a co-founder of Diagnostics For All, a non-profit organisation that aims to develop low-cost diagnostic devices to treat those who live far from hospitals and clinics.

Contact Email:

Zeinab Abutaleb

Position: Doctor, King Khalid University Hospital

Biography: Zeinab Abutaleb is known in Saudi Arabia as ‘the mother of doctors’, in recognition of her years of work specialising in the treatment of infertility. She completed her degree in medicine at King Saud University in 1980, becoming one of the kingdom’s first women to graduate in the subject. Abutaleb now has her own private practice at King Khalid University Hospital. She has also set up a unit specialising in treatments for infertility at King Saud University. Abutaleb is a member of the British Royal College of Obstetricians and of the Scientific Council of Women and Childbirth in the Saudi Commission for Health Specialities. She is also chairwoman of the committee on training in the Central Region within the same commission. Since joining the Shura Council in 2013, Abutaleb has become deputy chairwoman of its information and cultural committee.

Contact Tel: (+966) 11 477 5524

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