Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud made history last month. She was appointed Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, the kingdom’s first woman to take such a position.
The princess is the daughter of Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, who served for 22 years as an ambassador to Washington, DC, until 2005. Princess Reema studied at George Washington University and lived in the United States for two decades. She is replacing Khalid bin Salman, the son of King Salman and younger brother of Crown Prince Mohammed who has been pushing for social reforms in the kingdom.
Sara Bushnaq, a 21-year-old Saudi student currently studying in Colorado, expressed satisfaction about the appointment of a woman as an ambassador. “I’m really proud to see there are active steps being taken in terms of giving women the sense of responsibility, opportunity, and changing the status quo of men being the only providers. Being a Saudi woman myself on the verge of graduating, it’s nice to know that I can go back home to Saudi Arabia and have opportunities to serve a country I belong to,” she wrote in an interview conducted on WhatsApp.
“I believe it may be conflicting for our older generation who have a hard time grasping all the changes and accepting them,” Domia Abdi, a 24-year-old Saudi woman residing in the kingdom. “Yet, as time passes everyone in our community is seeing and understanding that we are changing and these steps, such as [Princess Reema’s] new role as Ambassador, are the symbols of a tangible new beginning in Saudi Arabia for women.”
According to Dina Mohammed, a third-year medical student at King Faisal University in Riyadh, “It’s great that Saudi Arabia has made that first step in allowing women to hold such powerful diplomatic positions.” “But Princess Reema’s appointment isn’t really a reference, ” she says, “as the typical Saudi woman doesn’t relate to her because she is a princess.” “I think until positions begin to open up to women who weren’t born within the circles of power, or born with a title, then we will really see the rise of Saudi women.”