The funding will not be used to promote priority women’s rights issues in Saudi Arabia nor the UAE
The World Economic Forum ranked Saudi Arabia 141st out of 144 countries in its 2016 Global Gender Gap Index, showing a worsening situation as it was ranked 134th in 2015.
HRWF (24.05.2017) – As U.S. President Donald Trump is on an official visit to Belgium today, Human Rights Without Frontiers criticizes the President and his daughter for paying lip service to the authorities of the Arabic Peninsula regarding women’s empowerment issues.
During their visit, Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s eldest daughter and senior White House advisor, discussed women’s rights and apparently ‘inspired’ a large donation to be made to women’s empowerment; however, within these talks Ivanka Trump failed to address the serious violations of women’s fundamental rights in both Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The $100 million donation
On the occasion of President Trump’s visit to Ryad, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates donated $100 million to the World Bank Women Entrepreneurs Fund, a fund supposedly “proposed” by Ivanka Trump.
The donation is aimed at efforts for women in the Middle East. The Wall Street Journal reports that the fund will specifically support women who start businesses . Ivanka Trump will not have any influence over the allocation of these funds.
This news is shocking and paradoxical, as women’s fundamental rights are severely violated in the region. In Saudi Arabia, for example, women are banned from driving and are required to receive permission from a male guardian to travel or wed.
At a meeting with elite professional women in Saudi Arabia, Ivanka Trump remarked that the country’s progress on women’s rights has been “very encouraging” but that “there’s still a lot of work to be done”.
How oppressed are women in Saudi Arabia?
The shocking nature of these meetings and the donation can only be understood upon the recognition of the severity of human rights violations for women in the country.
“The World Economic Forum  ranked Saudi Arabia near the bottom in its 2016 Global Gender Gap Index, with the country earning 141st out of 144 countries in 2016. Ranked at 134th in 2015, the situation in the country is clearly getting worse. It was only in December 2015 that Saudi women finally got the right to vote and to run for office – and even then only in municipal elections” Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers remarked in his reaction to the shocking lip service operation.
Furthermore, Human Rights Watch highlights that women “may be required to provide guardian consent in order to work or access healthcare” they continue on saying “Women regularly face difficulty conducting a range of transactions without a male relative, from renting an apartment to filing legal claims.”
Activist Loujain al-Hathoul, who was jailed in 2014 for driving in Saudi Arabia, told The Washington Post that her concern with events, such as the meetings with Ivanka Trump, “is that they show these women as powerful and making an impact, making a change. But in real life, they’ve been giving these opportunities by the men. They did not fight for them.” 
The criticism for this illegitimate effort has been heard from on both sides of the talks. In the U.S. Ivanka Trump has been criticized for paying lip service to issues women face while failing to influence her father to take real action on policies such as affordable child care. Some Saudi activists have also criticized Ivanka Trump and the women she met with for not doing enough to address some of the serious issues that women face in Saudi Arabia.
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