Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters she hopes to send a message regarding women in leadership when she visits Saudi Arabia.
Ahead of the second part of her Gulf tour, in a bid to secure post-Brexit trade, May claimed that she would be setting an example of what women can achieve and inspire the women of the region, who are still banned from driving and cannot travel without male permission. May told reporters on Monday:
“I hope that people see me as a woman leader… what women can achieve and how women can be in significant positions,”
“I’ve talked to the Saudis on a number of occasions now and I raise issues of this sort. I think we have already seen some changes.”
The Prime Minister said she backed the Saudi government’s Vision 2030 programme, a plan to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil and to develop their service industries, despite criticisms surrounding the program’s support for women’s rights.
On her visit, May will meet with Princess Reema, stating that the two would be “talking to her about the role that she plays, and generally we do encourage people to look at a woman’s role in society”.
Princess Reema is the first Saudi woman to hold a government position and is the vice-president of women’s affairs.
On May’s role as a female leader of one of the most powerful countries, she said:
“It’s important for me as a woman leader and as leader of the government of the United Kingdom to maintain the relationships that are important to us as a country, for our security, and our trade for the future.”
Directly commenting on May’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said: “The prime minister should put human rights and international law at the centre of her talks with Saudi Arabia’s government this week.
“Numerous human rights organisations, including the UNHRC and Amnesty International, have documented the dictatorial Saudi monarchy’s shocking human rights record. Unless the prime minister challenges the Saudi regime over its abuses this week, it will be clear she is ready to sacrifice human rights and security on the altar of the arms trade.”