Ivanka Trump praises Saudi Arabia on women's rights after country donates $100 million to her cause

Middle East nations pledged cash to help women entrepreneurs as part of global World Bank initiative

Rachael Revesz
Monday 22 May 2017 07:35 BST
Ivanka Trump speaks in place of her father at social media forum

Ivanka Trump has praised the progress of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia after the country and the United Arab Emirates pledged to donate $100 million to the first World Bank's global project for women entrepreneurs.

Speaking in Saudi Arabia as her father met with Arab and Islam leaders, Ms Trump said progress in the nation was “encouraging” but said there was “still a lot of work to be done”.

"In every country around the world women and girls continue to face unique systematic, institutional, cultural barriers, which hinder us from fully engaging in and achieving true parity of opportunity within our communities," she said at a roundtable of women leaders in society, businesswomen and elected government officials.

”Each of you know this to be true. And yet the stories of Saudi women, such as yourselves, catalysing change, inspire me to believe in the possibility of global women’s empowerment.”

Progress includes women being allowed to vote in local elections, and a decreasing amount of power held by the religious police.

“The need to empower and engage women transcends borders and cultures. Whether in the United States or in Saudi Arabia, women play a critical role in a movement that unites us all,” she said.

Melania and Ivanka Trump did not wear headscarves for Trump's Saudi speech

Journalists were asked to leave the room before issues around women's equality could be brought up, such as women not having the right to drive, go anywhere alone or be included in public life.

US officials did not raise these concerns, as noted by the US state department’s past reports on human rights.

Ms Trump was invited to participate by Saudi Princess Reema bint Bandar, a retail executive, divorced mother and social activist who is one of the main voices for women’s rights in a conservative country.

At the same forum, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the UAE and Saudi Arabia will donate $100 million towards the planned $1 billion global women’s entrepreneurship fund, which was encouraged by Ms Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

It is unclear how much each of the two Middle East nations donated. The Wall Street Journal reported that although the President's daughter proposed the fund, she does not control it or raise money for it.

“Thank you @JimYongKim for your leadership & for joining me in a meaningful discussion with women entrepreneurs today,” tweeted Ms Trump.

He responded, "Women’s economic empowerment is key to growth. Thanks to Saudi Arabia & UAE for their support & @IvankaTrump for championing the issue."

The fund is still being formed and will be formally announced at the G-20 July summit.

It and is aimed to help women in the Middle East – in countries that are clients of the World Bank – to access finance, markets and networks.

“I think this fund [...] is going to make a huge difference,” Mr Kim said.

Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the US, said in a statement that his country’s donation shows “our commitment to empowering women in our region and builds on the progress we have made in our country, where women play a role in every segment of society.”

In 2016 the World Bank invested $2.5 billion in Michelle and Barack Obama’s charity for girls education, called Let Girls Learn, over five years.

Mr Kim said at the time that the empowerment of girls was “central” to the group’s development efforts.

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