According to the latest report by UNESCO, the percentage of women graduating from university in Saudi Arabia is higher than in countries in the West. In the field of science, 40 percent of Saudi doctors are women and there is an increasing number of successful women who have acquired global recognition as scientists and researchers and have inspired many Saudi women at home.
Dr. Khawla Al-Kurai, consultant and principle clinical scientist and cancer researcher at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center (KFSHRC), is a distinguished doctor who has made contributions in the field of medical research. She is on the board of editors of BMC Genomic, a well-known journal in genetics. Dr. Al-Kurai is in charge of a project attempting to identify the genomic drivers in thyroid cancer, which will improve the clinical management of the disease. The international cancer genome consortium ICGC has announced that the new project is ahead of schedule in generating genomic data on more than 25,000 tumors for up to 50 types of cancer that are of clinical and societal importance across the globe. Dr. Al-Kurai has participated in many national and international conferences and has been instrumental in highlighting the new image of Saudi women doctors and scientists in her country and abroad. She has also received a national award from King Abdullah, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, for her academic achievements and scientific contributions.
Professor Samira Islam , the head of the Drug Monitoring Unit at King Fahd Research Center has made significant contributions in drug safety by defining the Saudi profile for drug metabolism. She has held several academic leadership posts in Saudi Arabia as well as international diplomatic posts in the World Health Organization. She has also made significant contributions to the education of women in the Kingdom. UNESCO named Dr. Islam the most distinguished Arab Muslim scientist of the world in the year 2000. She has held academic leadership positions in Saudi Arabia and abroad. Dr. Islam has worked hard to develop the academic infrastructure to support women studying science in the Kingdom’s higher educational system.
Dr. Samia Al-Amoudi, obstetrician, gynecologist and assistant professor at King Abdul Aziz University, is a breast cancer advocate and breast cancer survivor. She has received several awards for her courage and hard work for the betterment of society. The Arabian Business Magazine placed her among the top 100 people who had a significant impact on their societies and she was also listed as one of the most important Arab scientists. Dr. Al-Amoudi is well-known for her brave campaign to raise awareness about the prevalence of breast cancer in Saudi Arabia and for her bold initiative to speak about her own experience as a breast cancer survivor in order show support for other women who suffer in silence. Dr. Al-Amoudi recently established the Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi Scientific Chair for Women’s Health Empowerment at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah to empower women and raise awareness about health rights and health issues in general.
Dr. Maha Al-Muneef, Executive Director of the National Family Safety Program and councilor of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, is a child protectionist and child rights advocate. She is also a consultant on pediatric infectious diseases and has been involved in the national implementation of child protection services.
She is chairwoman of the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Center at King Abdul Aziz Medical City, a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and president-elect of the Arab Professional Network for the Prevention of Violence Against Children. She is also a consultant in the Shoura Council.
Dr. Al-Muneef has dedicated her career to the prevention of child abuse and to raising public awareness about the need to address this social problem and to train doctors to recognize the victims of abuse. She has also called for legal action against child molesters.
Dr. Al-Muneef started the national safety program in 1999 with her colleagues to address the abuse of women and children by husbands and fathers and was supported by the patronage of Princess Adila the daughter of King Abdullah. Dr. Al-Muneef has worked hard to educate women about their legal rights and she has offered legal and social assistance to victims unable to escape from abusive homes. She has also been instrumental in establishing centers to protect victims of abuse. She has campaigned in many parts of the Kingdom to raise awareness and has succeeded in organizing three significant symposiums in Jeddah, Madinah and Abha that were instrumental in enacting the country’s first laws criminalizing violence against women and children.
In order to address the biased attitude which is sometimes found within the judiciary, Dr. Al-Muneef has engaged judges, lawyers, police officers and activists to protect the rights of women and children and expose the unjust and un-Islamic criminal acts of abusive husbands and fathers.
These Saudi women who have reached leadership positions and many others are role models for future generations. The success of these distinguished women has undoubtedly boosted the morale of those members of society who were once abused and marginalized. Women doctors, scientists and researchers are expected to contribute toward a socially, politically and economically progressive Saudi Arabia.
— Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org