The government has begun to provide Saudi women with funding to secure their own boats and training to operate tourism businesses in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.
The Border Training Guard Program in Yanbu with the support of several government departments issued marine driving licenses to 11 Saudi women recently. An organization named “Riyada” is also supporting the program by providing loans to enable women to own boats.
Hamed Al-Juhani, president of the board of directors of the Yanbu Cooperative Society for Fishermen, said that specialists were assigned to train women in navigating a boat. In addition, tourism professionals have helped prepare intensive 10-day practical and five-day theoretical training programs.
“We have hired experienced leaders in boat driving, fishing, and going on trips, who know all the tourism areas in Yanbu by heart,” he said. The course covers navigation, safety and other aspects of a marine-focused business.
Al-Juhani said his organization was committed to providing young women the opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills, as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 program.
“There are now more than 100 women wishing to join the course, and our specialized training cadre are 100 percent Saudis.”
Rahma Al-Majnouni, one of the 11 women who obtained a marine driving license from the Yanbu cooperative, said: “The border guards tested our abilities to make sure we deserve our licenses.”
While Al-Majnouni wants to operate trips in her own boat, she is also passionate about teaching others how to navigate marine vessels.
“We will be representing Saudi women and girls in the best way possible, since we were the first to obtain our marine driving licenses. I am keen to actively participate in the achievement of (these) aspects of the program’s vision,” she said.
Safaa Fallata, a certified international diving instructor, who has participated in coral reef farming in the Red Sea, praised the Yanbu cooperative and the government for their support.
May Qandil, another trainee who recently joined the program, said: “I had a passion and love for the sea since early childhood … Women are able to achieve their dreams now and we live in an unprecedented era, where we are empowering women in several fields.”
Qandil encouraged women to participate and benefit from the specialized training courses.
Another successful participant, Malak Al-Juhani, who holds a diving license, said she has “a strong relationship with the sea.” She wants to become an instructor for women and children in Yanbu, considered the capital of diving in the country.
“When the marine driving license program was first announced, I participated without any hesitation whatsoever to invest in my dreams.
“The course had many requirements including swimming, passing the theoretical and practical tests, as well as receiving intensive training provided by a female military cadre.”
Among the skills learnt was how to pilot boats in varying sea conditions, using life jackets, and adhering to other required international standards, said Al-Juhani.