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  • Reaching The Next Level Of Female Empowerment In Saudi Arabia

    Saudi WomanBy Rowaida Alerwi for The Huffington Post

    Over time, Saudi Arabia has adopted a society that has maintained traditional and religious customs. However, some changes have taken place, and in comparison to the traditional norms of Saudi Arabian society, these changes have been drastic.

    When Saudi Arabia first became a nation in 1932, education was limited to a few select schools. However, nowadays free access to education, from kindergarten to university, is every Saudi citizen's right. Although it was focused on males at the beginning, ever since the first school for females was built in 1956, female education has seen significant progress.

    The creation of colleges and universities for women has become commonplace. Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University (PNU) was the first women's university in Saudi Arabia and the largest women-only university in the world. The increased education of females in Saudi also played an important role in the decision to allow women to vote in municipal elections for the first time in 2016.

    Education affects both the Saudi and female labour force participation rates in many ways. In 2013, 60 per cent of graduates in Saudi Arabia were female, only 17 per cent of these women actually ended up in the job market. Many graduates end up unemployed, as the job market is still not very welcoming to women. Even though King Abdullah was viewed as a very cautious reformer of women's rights by changing the law to allow women to work in shops, progress remains slow since this 2011 change.

    Nevertheless, there appears to be a coming together that is creating greater opportunities for female entrepreneurs in the country. Saudi Arabia stands out as a country where entrepreneurship is well-perceived and is seen as a worthy career choice for women. This type of advancements will not only be an important factor in the social advancement of women, but will more broadly result in potential economic development for the country. According to Saudi's goals announced on April 25th of this year, Saudi aims to increase women's participation in the workforce from 22 per cent to 30 per cent by 2030.

    An increasing number of women in Saudi Arabia have begun to achieve significant success in the entrepreneurial field, tackling big businesses and male-dominated industries to make their unique mark on the economy. In light of recent increases in female-friendly business opportunities, several female entrepreneurs have shown that they are both willing and able to step out of the box to find creative jobs that ignite their passions and challenge them.

    Some examples include Yatooq, a young innovative coffee startup led by Lateefa Alwaalan, focuses on the most famous coffee in Saudi and the Arabian Gulf region, Arabic coffee. There's also Fyunka, a fashion brand of well-known Jeddah based designer, Alaa Balkhy, who gains her inspiration from contemporary pop-culture.

    I was thrilled to be a part of G(irls)20 Summit in Beijing, China, which brought together 24 delegates from across the world and gives them the opportunity to gain leadership and communication skills. It is a great way to advocate young females in order to maximize their potential to eventually initiate their own ideas. After meeting this year's delegates, I'm sure some of the delegates will be the great entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

  • ZHA’s American University of Beirut Faculty Wins Aga Khan Award

    FaresAUBBy Merlin Fulcher for The Architect's Journal

    Zaha Hadid Architects has won an Aga Khan Award for Architecture for its Issam Fares Institute in Beirut.

    The award recognises the practice’s building on the campus of the American University of Beirut. The ‘radical but respectful’ 3,000m² building, for the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, was won in an international competition 10 years ago, and completed in 2014.

    The scheme was selected for a prize along with five other projects from a 19-strong shortlist. The latest awards cover buildings completed between 2014 and 2016.

    The Aga Khan Award for Architecture was created by His Highness the Aga Khan in 1977 to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully addressed the needs and aspirations of communities in which Muslims have a significant presence. Prizes have been given to projects across the world, fromthe Aga Khan in 1977 to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully addressed the needs and aspirations of communities in which Muslims have a significant presence.

    A statement from the Aga Khan Development Network said: ‘The building is defined by the routes and connections within the university; the building emerges from the geometries of intersecting routes as a series of interlocking platforms and spaces for research and discourse.

    ‘The massing and volume distribution fits very well with the topography, and the nearby Ficus and Cyprus trees are perfectly integrated with the project.’

    It added that the building’s construction was a continuation of the 20th-century Lebanese construction culture of working with fair-faced concrete.

    The footprint of the building was reduced by ‘floating’ a reading room, workshop conference room and research facilities above the entrance courtyard using a 21m-long cantilever.

    The winners of the latest awards were announced at a ceremony held at the Al Jahili fort in Abu Dhabi. The awards were overseen by a steering committee chaired by the Aga Khan and featuring David Adjaye and AKTII co-founder Hanif Kara.

    The full list of winners:

    • LEBANON: Issam Fares Institute, Beirut (Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects)
    • BANGLADESH: Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, Dhaka (Architect: Marina Tabassum)
 and Friendship Centre, Gaibandha (Architects: Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury/URBANA)

    • CHINA: Cha’er Hutong Children’s Library and Art Centre, Beijing (Architects: ZAO/standardarchitecture / Zhang Ke)
    • DENMARK: Superkilen, Copenhagen (Architects: BIG- Bjarke Ingels Group, Topotek 1 and Superflex)

    • IRAN: Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge, Tehran (Architects: Diba Tensile Architecture / Leila Araghian, Alireza Behzadi)

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