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Ivanka Trump praises 'encouraging' Saudi progress on women

Ivanka accompanied her father on a visit to Saudi Arabia [AFP]

Date of publication: 22 May, 2017

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US President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka has praised the "encouraging" progress made by Saudi Arabia in women empowerment.

US President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka has said that Saudi Arabia has made "encouraging" progress in empowering women but more freedom is needed.

"Saudi Arabia's progress, especially in recent years, is very encouraging," Trump's eldest daughter told a group of Saudi women she met in Riyadh on Sunday while accompanying her father on a visit to the Muslim kingdom.

"But there's still a lot of work to be done and freedoms and opportunities to continue to fight for," added Ivanka, who serves as an advisor to her father.

"Around the world women continue to achieve unprecedented levels of rights and freedoms. Today you all stand on the frontlines of the fight for gender equality," she told a roundtable of women led by Princess Reema bint Bandar, deputy president of the Women's Sports Authority.

"The stories of Saudi women, such as yourselves, catalysing change, inspire me to believe in the possibility of global women's empowerment."

Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict form of Sunni Islam, imposes many restrictions on women.

It is the only country where they are not allowed to drive. When in public, women in Saudi Arabia are expected to cover from head to toe.

However, the ultra-conservative kingdom is swaying towards relaxing rules on women as part of its ambitious Vision 2030 campaign launched last year.

"There has been a transformation regarding the role Saudi women can play in the labour force," Princess Reema said.

"We do not change our laws and regulation to appease the outside world. We take necessary steps as per our own interests".

A royal decree earlier this month reportedly stipulated that women are no longer required to obtain a male guardian's consent to carry out certain activities.

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

In March, the Saudi labour ministry announced it was aiming for a major boost of female employment in a "telework" initiative, creating up to 141,000 jobs that would enable women to work remotely.

$100 million women's fund

During Ivanka's meeting with the Saudi women, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim announced a $100 million donation from oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the United Arab for a women's business fund she supports.

The idea of a fund providing microfinance to women in underdeveloped countries was floated by Trump's daughter and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a conference in Berlin last month.

Kim said the donation along with other pledges from the United States and other countries would allow the World Bank to announce the creation of a $1-billion fund for women empowerment during the G-20 summit in July.

"This is really a stunning achievement. I've never seen anything come together so quickly," he commented, according to the source.

The US president flew to Israel on Monday after a two-day stay in Saudi Arabia, which he chose for his first foreign trip since taking office in January.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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