Saudi Activists Respond To Ivanka Trump's Female Empowerment Meeting

The event during the Trump administration’s first trip abroad was met with questions by activists.

Ivanka Trump presented herself as a champion of women's rights and advocate for women's empowerment during a trip to Saudi Arabia with her father's administration this weekend. During the two-day trip, the president's oldest daughter and special advisor, amongst other events, attended a meeting with female leaders in the country Sunday, at which she stated her focus for the next four years was "to help empower women in the United States and around the globe."

"In every country, including the United States, women and girls face challenges," it was reported Trump said during the meeting. "Saudi Arabia's progress, especially in recent years, is very encouraging," she said, "but there's still a lot of work to be done."

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The work that remains in terms of gender equality in Saudi Arabia, a country in which women cannot work, travel or marry without the permission of a male guardian, could perhaps best be illustrated by who was able to attend Trump's meeting of female leaders, activists say. During several official meetings, Ivanka and First Lady Melania Trump were the only women in the room. 

"All the women that Ivanka Trump met have a guardian," Aziza al-Yousef, a 58-year-old Saudi activist, told The Washington Post. "All these achievements depend on whether you're lucky to be born in a family where your guardian will be understanding, will help you. If Ivanka is interested in women empowerment and human rights, she should see activists, and not just officials."

Others pointed out that any meeting concerning businesswomen in Saudi Arabia should include a conversation about how to create legislative changes that life the limits on females in the workplace.

"It's not that entrepreneurship isn't important, but you need serious political changes so that that the laws that restrict women from functioning in the workplace are reversed," Kristine Beckerle, a Saudi Arabia researcher for Human Rights Watch told The New York Times. "Without that, any amount of money or investment won't go very far."

In recent years, Saudi women have demonstrated the understanding that if they want change in their country, they must fight for it themselves. In 2015, the year that females were first able to vote in Saudi Arabia, 900 women ran for office. This past February, women gathered in capital, Riyadh, for the first Women's Day celebration in the country. Through social media, Saudi women have been sharing their stories to those who live outside the regime.

If we're smart enough, we'll take time to listen to what they have to say. 

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