P.K. Abdul Ghafour
JEDDAH, 5 April 2004 — The Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce & Industry has called for women-only production facilities in a bid to tap some SR90 billion in investments by Saudi businesswomen.
In its third forum, which concluded on Thursday, the council proposed setting up women-only production centers for clothes, perfumes and other predominantly feminine products. Such industries would also create a large number of jobs for Saudi women.
Saudi women's bank deposits are estimated at SR90 billion, most of it lying idle because current legislation severely restricts economic activity for women.
They require a male agent when registering their business as well as in court and a number of other circumstances. Many have also found it difficult to access information about business opportunities in an overwhelmingly male-dominated market.
The CSCCI forum also wants a national committee for businesswomen formed, according to Al-Madinah newspaper. It would study the barriers to women's businesses and investments here.
There have been some efforts to empower Saudi businesswomen recently. Thus the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce & Industry last month opened a women's wing to facilitate their activities.
The section "will act as a mini chamber of commerce offering all the services provided by the headquarters and will be electronically connected to the RCCI to provide the necessary information to help Saudi women run their own businesses," Abdul Rahman Al-Jeraisy, RCCI's president, said at the time.
A separate office for women was essential as RCCI's female members currently owns 3,000 businesses. The Riyadh region accounts for 34 percent of total commercial registrations by businesswomen in the Kingdom.
"The wing is a meeting place for Saudi businesswomen to exchange ideas, develop their capabilities and solve their problems," said Hussein ibn Abdul Rahman Al-Adel, RCCI's secretary-general.
"It will have a positive impact on their activities," Al-Jazirah Arabic daily quoted Al-Adel as saying.
Efforts are under way to establish a similar office for businesswomen in Jeddah. "An office for businesswomen will be opened at the Commerce Ministry's Jeddah branch shortly," said Hussa Al-Aun, chairwoman of Al-Bidaya Company for Trade and Industry and member of the businesswomen's committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
The Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce & Industry recently set up a women's committee and Dr. Aysha Al-Manie, a prominent businesswoman, has been elected its chairwoman.