First Indian women’s’ team returns from S. Arabia with a few surprises

October 27th, 2010 - 5:09 pm ICT by ANI  

New Delhi, Oct. 27 (ANI): Six eminent Indian women from different walks of life, who undertook a week-long visit of Saudi Arabia from October 8 to 14 with the objective of improving bilateral relations and establishing better people-to-people contacts between both countries, have revealed a few surprises on their return.

The delegation included freelance journalist and writer Nilofar Suhrawardy, who led this first all-woman Indian delegation; former journalist and politician Louise Khurshid; Principal of the Indraprastha College for Women, Delhi University Babli Moitra Saraf, social and human rights activist Madhu Kishwar, textile designer Madhu Rao Ayde and cosmetic surgeon Rashmi Taneja.

Interacting with 17 media persons at the Taj Palace Hotel late on Tuesday night, the delegation said they had been invited to visit Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh as part of an initiative to further strengthen relations between the two countries, especially in the wake of the signing of the “Riyadh Declaration” in 2006 and the “Delhi Declaration” in February-March 2010.

Expressing satisfaction with their visit, they said the trip had materialized due to the efforts of Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to India, Faisal Hassan Trad and the Saudi Journalists Association.

Leader of the delegation, Nilofar Suhrawardy revealed that the visit was an eye-opener from the Indian perspective of Saudi Arabia.

She, and other members of the delegation, were of the unanimous view that the visit has helped to demolished “stereotyped” images projected about Saudi Arabian women.

Accepting that Saudi society is still very conservative with regard to certain issues, especially when it comes to donning their “Abaiyas” (veils from head to toe), the Indian womens’ delegation said that beneath the veil were Saudi women determined to cross existing societal barriers and at a fast speed.

Suhrawardy and Saraf particularly revealed that their interaction with Saudi Arabia’s Vice-Minister for Education, Norah Abdullah Alfaiz, the only woman in the state cabinet, was mind-boggling. They said she came across as a very energetic and enthusiastic personality, and one very keen to take the country forward on modern lines.

They said Alfaiz told them that her ministry is focusing on job-oriented education courses.

“The lady has smartly done away with possible apprehensions from conservative sections regarding work culture in her ministry by combining offices of all ladies associated with her in one building,” Suhrawardy revealed.

Regarding the standard of education, she said: ‘Education, work and development seem to be the key goals of women wings of all institutions that the Indian delegation interacted with.”

The delegation she said visited the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Saudi Human Rights Association, the Prince Sultan University, the King Abdul Aziz National Dialogue Center, the Saudi Journalists Association, the Princess Noura University for Women and the Al-Shoura Council (the Saudi Parliament).

They also visited the King Faisal Specialist Hospital, the Kingdom Mall, the National Museum and the Indian International School.

Apart from meeting Alfaiz, the delegation also met Abdul Aziz Khoja, Saudi Arabia’s Minister for Information and Culture, India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Talmiz Ahmed, who hosted a reception for the delegation, Princess Jawhara Bint Fahd Al-Saud, the vice-chancellor of the Princess Noura University for Women and Princess Haila A. Al-Saud, the general manager of the Ladies Branch of the Saudi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

At the end of the visit, the two sides agreed that India and Saudi Arabia have the potential to tap various avenues for bilateral cooperation. The delegation said they were particularly impressed by the progress of Saudi women in that society, describing their advance as “remarkable”.

For the record, trade between Saudi Arabia and India is booming. Trade has increased from 300 million dollars in 2000 to 28 billion dollars in 2009.

In the last few years, there has also been a sharp rise in Business2Business exchanges, visits by eminent dignitaries and bilateral collaboration in different areas. (ANI)

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