Norah Al Faiz
Norah bint Abdullah Al Faiz, also spelled Noura Al Fayez, (born 1956) is the first woman to hold a cabinet-level office in Saudi Arabia. She was vice minister of education from 2009 to 2015.
PC CREDIT: Norah Al-Faiz | Photo by Ziyad Alarfaj
Early life and education[
Norah Al Faiz was born in Shaqraa in 1956. Al Faiz received a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from King Saud University in Riyadh in 1979. She also received a master's degree in Instructional Technologies from Utah State University in 1982.
Upon returning to Saudi Arabia, Al Faiz worked as a teacher. She became head principal of the girls' section at Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Schools. Later, Al Faiz served as the head of ministry of education’s educational technology center, and a lecturer and head of the training board of the ministry’s administration institute from 1983 to 1988. In 1993, she became ministry's educational supervisor for girls’ private education. She was also appointed the director general of women's section of the institute of public administration in 1993, which she held until 2009. In addition, she worked as an associate professor in the department of education techniques from 1989 to 1995 at the College of Education, King Saud University. Al Faiz was named deputy minister of education in charge of women’s affairs in February 2009 and is the first woman to direct girls’ education in Saudi Arabia. She said that her appointment was "a source of pride for all women." Al Faiz was dismissed from the post in late April 2015.
Reactions to her appointment
Saudi journalist Khalid Almeena stated "People are very excited about this [her appointment]." Prince Talal considered her appointment as part of a larger process of change, initiated by King Abdullah even before his coronation, when he was still crown prince. He further stated that this appointment was good news for men even more than women, and was a call for women to take their natural place in society. Faisal bin Abdallah, education minister, also welcomed her appointment as a deputy. He told that the Saudi education ministry was proud to be the first to have a woman in a ministry post, and that women help men in numerous areas, including in education.[ However, Ali Alyami argued that her appointment was largely a move to make democratic reformers ineffective in and outside the country with the goal of reducing global criticism over the Saudi segregationist policies and oppression of women. For him, this move strengthens and reinforces King Abdullah’s position in the country. Shortly, he thought that her appointment led to a short-lived positive impact on the psyche and ethos of Saudi society, but it did not last for a long-time.
Her Al Watan interview seems to support Ali Alyami's views. Four months after her appointment, in June 2009, Norah Al Faiz told that "the time was still too soon for [the] topic ”of sports for girls." Since her photo was published in the same daily, showing her face without niqab, she angrily reacted and said "The publication of my photo upset me immensely ... [I]t is well known that I am a Saudi woman from Najd, and thus I wear a niqab. I will never allow the publishing of my photo in newspapers and I will not accept that it be put up anywhere."
Al Faiz is married and has three sons and two daughters. In April 2012, Utah State University granted her an honorary degree. In 2009, she was regarded as one of the 500 influential Muslims by Georgetown University's center for Muslim-Christian understanding
TheFace: Norah Al-Faiz, the first Saudi female vice-minister at the Ministry of Education
Norah Al-Faiz: I believed in the powerful influence of early childhood education on one’s personal, social and professional life. I was born in Shagra in 1954 at a time when education was still in its infancy in Saudi Arabia. As the first child of 10 — six boys and four girls — I was privileged be given my parent’s attention and care, as they were eager to instill cultural and moral values in their children along with encouraging them to learn and progress in education. Growing up between Riyadh and the Eastern Province, I finished my early education in public schools, studied sociology at King Saud University in Riyadh in the mid-1970’s, and graduated in 1978 whilst pregnant with my first child. University education for women back then did not require a lot of attendance at lectures, which did not match my ambitions for a busy life. I therefore found myself a job as a school controller at an intermediate school in Riyadh. During my early journey through motherhood, my husband received a scholarship to the US, and although I was just beginning my professional life in education I decided to leave my job and move. I was still eager to pursue my higher education, so I immediately enrolled in an English language institute before starting my master’s degree at Utah State University where I studied instructional technology at the education department. Choosing this particular subject of study was a well-thought-out decision. At that time, 99.9 percent of job opportunities for women were in education, and I knew this major was needed in my country. And above all, education is my passion. Managing my family duties and studies was a unique experience as I was pregnant with my second child when graduating from my master’s. I stayed focused and decided to pursue my specialist degree right after. Returning to the Kingdom in 1983, I was privileged to have my professional life prosper. I first joined the Institute of Public Administration as a manager and instructor; it had just opened its branch for female students. Between 1984 and 1988, I contributed in training women, preparing them for the labor market. With the help of my colleagues, we established the Education Technology Center at the Ministry of Education which focused particularly on the development of employees in the education sector. After that I was invited to work as a supervisor for the Special Needs Center, but it was not challenging enough to keep me fully occupied, so I worked as a part time professor at King Saud University before returning to the Institute of Public Administration as the general director of the women’s branch. In 2009, I was honored and privileged to be the first Saudi woman to be appointed to the position of vice-minister of education, an honor bestowed on me by the late King Abdullah. The news was warmly and happily welcomed by my loved ones and I was honored to receive that trust. I was also determined from my first day in office to support, initiate and adopt projects and programs that would have a positive impact on the professional career pathway of Saudi women, particularly in education. During my time in office between 2009 and 2015, I succeeded with my team in providing important leadership opportunities for women at the ministry along with improving working conditions and student learning outcomes. The seven key domains that I have primarily focused on supporting were professional career pathways for women, early childhood education, support for female students, the development of special education, adult education programs, supporting private education and complementary educational projects. Another important step I am proud of is permitting private schools to have female teachers, and letting them teach male students in primary grades. It was important not only from an educational perspective but also to create more job opportunities for women. Although I received huge opposition, it did not stop me from my goal to improve the education sector. Even after I left the ministry, I never stopped serving my country. It is in my blood. None of my achievements have ever been an individual effort: I worked with an amazing team to help to improve the education system, and I am certainly proud of the outcome. I received the Distinguished Arab Women Award in Education from the Arab Women Foundation in 2011, as well as the first prize at the 20th Global Summit for Countries Best Practices to Broaden Women Employability at the MOE in China in 2010. My alma mater, Utah State University, tracked my work and granted me an honorary doctorate in 2012 for my support of women’s and early childhood education. As a proud mother of five — three boys and two girls — as well as four grandchildren, my husband Sulaiman Al-Solai and I focused on raising our family to be independent and open to the world. Education was important in my household but I don’t believe in pressuring children to pursue anything other than what they want to pursue. I believe in striking a balance for children excelling in their educational fields, and their personal growth is key to happy, successful lives. In Saudi Arabia small changes carry deep meaning, so the appointment earlier this year of Norah al-Faiz as Deputy Minister for Women's Education was nothing short of an earthquake. Educated at King Saud University and Utah State, al-Faiz is the first woman minister in Saudi history. The appointment of al-Faiz, in her early 50s, was the most significant sign yet of the quiet revolution under way since King Abdullah ascended the throne in 2005. The King also replaced his Minister of Justice, head of the religious police and Minister of Education with more moderate, reform-minded leaders. Saudi reformers welcomed the changes, especially the appointment of al-Faiz, but the real test will be whether she is allowed the authority to get things done. The education of girls has long been a battleground within the kingdom. Al-Faiz faces practical difficulties too. She can't, for example, work face to face with male counterparts without violating the kingdom's strict religious code — so she has said she will conduct meetings through closed-circuit television. Her presence at the ministry has had an immediate impact on Saudi women, who had been unable to enter the building. No longer. "Now I am the deputy minister, and my door is open and accessible," alFaiz said after her appointment. The path for al-Faiz will not be easy. But something important is under way in Saudi Arabia, and al-Faiz, and her King, are two people to watch.
Nora Al Fayez: A role model for Saudi women
Saudi activist: Female minister 'first step' but more needed
The appointment of a Saudi woman as a vice minister in the country's government is a "first step" for women's rights in Saudi Arabia, but "more serious changes" are needed, an outspoken advocate said Sunday.
Nora Al Fayez is very much aware that she is opening doors for many other women in Saudi Arabia. The first woman to be named deputy education minister for women's affairs - the highest position reached by a female in the conservative country - Nora can't believe that her dream has come true. "Never ever, I was not expecting it to happen," she said of her appointment. In an exclusive interview with Gulf News from Riyadh, Nora said she was expecting one of the "wonderful females" and "distinguished women" in the country to be appointed to a high position, but "I was not expecting, at all, that I will be that woman, and in that position." Actually, she was. She recalled the "very very happy" feelings she sensed after receiving a call from "people" in the Royal Court telling her she was chosen to the high position, almost two days before the official announcement of the cabinet reshuffle on February 14. Euphoria and pride prevailed among all her family members of the woman whom they called "mayor" of the family because she is the eldest child and because of their total trust in her and her opinions. Moreover, some years back, Nora helped one of her brothers to cling to life. He was suffering from leukaemia, and medical tests showed that she was the only relative who could donate bone-marrow to save his life. "I was thrilled to be the one to save his life. He is doing fine now, thank God," she said. Apart from being a daughter, mother and wife, Nora is also looked at by her colleagues as an ambitious leader. Her appointment was hailed and received a considerable media coverage. "She has a strong personality," Hanan Al Ahmadi, associate professor of health administration and Nora's former colleague, told Gulf News. "Surly, she is qualified to fill that post, and the position needs somebody like her." Also, "the education sector itself needs development", Hanan, who worked under the leadership of Nora at the Saudi Institute of Public Administration, said. Nora joined the Institute in 1993, after administrating private schools and working in the education ministry, specialising in women's education. The 52-year-old graduated in sociology from King Saud University in 1978 and earned a master's degree in education from Utah State University in the United States in 1982. As for her new post, Nora has already defined her initial priorities. "Going to the field," she said. "Seeing the reality and checking needs. Afterwards, the work priorities will be defined." Many women activists and political scientists believed there was a need for the newly appointed Saudi ministers to open communication channels with the public and putting a timetable to achieving goals. "For any leader to succeed, he or she needs to draw a timetable, define priorities and start implementation," Nora said. Equally important, is the "work team" and the formation of "a team capable of carrying out the duties according to importance", she said. However, Nora disagreed with the saying that "Saudi curriculum" are controversial and need a revision. "Do you think whatever is being said is true?" she asked. "I am one of those who are stressing that there is nothing wrong with our curriculum. There could be a need to develop them." The problem is not with the textbooks, "but rather with some of those who are outside the country, trying to find gaps in our society", she said. Nora said she believed in "gradual" reforms, in response to a question on her opinion of reforms in Saudi Arabia. Many analysts believe the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, is a reformer. In Saudi Arabia, there is segregation between the two sexes in almost all aspects of public life: schools, universities, banks, businesses and restaurants. Conservatives reacted positively to Nora's appointment, she said. Unlike the rest of Arab societies, Nora's pictures were not widely distributed to international media when she was appointed. A few Saudi newspapers published her pictures, but refrained after her objections. "I didn't wish my pictures to be published without the hijab," she said explaining that apart from the hijab, which covers the head, she also wears the niqab, which covers the face. "We are in a conservative society.
Saudi King Abdullah has appointed a woman to his council of ministers for the first time. "It is something really great, and we are very proud of our king that he took this decision," Wajeha al-Huwaider told CNN. "And I think it's going to be the first step toward the reform that he promised." King Abdullah on Saturday appointed Norah al-Faiz to serve as the newly created vice minister for women's education as part of a major Cabinet reshuffling. It is the highest rank a woman has achieved in the Saudi government. "I'm very proud to be nominated and selected for such a prestigious position," al-Faiz told CNN on Saturday. "I hope that other ladies, females, will follow in the future." Al-Faiz said she's confident her appointment is not simple tokenism. "I think by being the second person after the minister, I think I have enough power to work in the improvement of girls' education," she said. But al-Huwaider said it is unclear if al-Faiz will have any real power, or if she will follow the path of other Saudi women who had been appointed to lower councils but were never heard from. She noted that Saudi women still do not have the right to drive and are still recognized under Saudi law as the property of men. "Even this minister now ... she is not really in control of her life," al-Huwaider noted. "It is not up to her, it's up to her male guardian." She said the "guardianship system" is the first thing that should be removed by the new Saudi government. "This is the main thing that is controlling our life," al-Huwaider said. "We want to be able to drive our cars, you know, to feel like we are just like the rest of the world." Other positions that were replaced were the head of Saudi Arabia's influential Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, as well as the ministers of health, justice, culture and education. Khaled al-Maeena, editor-in-chief of Arab News, an English-language daily newspaper in Saudi Arabia, said that the entire Cabinet reshuffling "sends a clear signal that the King means business." "King Abdullah has always been saying this for quite some time, that he would like to see the country progress," al-Maeena told CNN. "He has taken many initiatives, reforms, enhanced the power of women.... "And right now, by getting these people who are young -- some of them -- who have the right ambition and the right knowledge, to go ahead, I think it means that there is going to be a march towards progress."
Saudi Arabia just appointed a female deputy minister
Tamadur bint Youssef al-Ramah has a new ground-breaking role after a political and military reshuffle. It’s been a year of great change in Saudi Arabia, and it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. In a year when the kingdom will start hiring women for ‘soldier’ positions, will grant driving licences to women, and is opening up cinemas, one woman has got an important new role. Dr Tamadur bint Youssef Al Ramah was made Deputy Minister of labour and social development as part of a reshuffle announced on Monday evening by King Salman bin Abdulaziz. Al Ramah is the first woman to hold the post, The National reports, though the first woman to be appointed a deputy minister in Saudi’s cabinet was Norah bint Abdallah Al Faiz, who became deputy minister of education in charge of women’s affairs in 2009. The major political and military shake-up also saw First Lieutenant General Fayyad bin Hamed al-Ruwayli become the new chief of staff, as well as the appointment of several new deputy ministers and deputy governors. The move was an effort to “pump young blood” into local government, according to a TV interview with analyst Ahmed al-Towayan, Reuters reports. The kingdom has seen many changes since the promotion of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last year. The 32-year-old royal has spearheaded Vision 2030, Saudi’s ambitious post-oil economic plan which aims to make the country a more modern, tourist-friendly destination. Last September, a royal decree revealed women will be able to secure driving licences from June 2018, with the news widely celebrated around the globe. As part of the initiative, the government also aims to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020. Additionally, more Saudi females have been appointed to top jobs, a royal directive allowed women to use certain government services without a male guardian’s consent, and recent approval was issued for the go-ahead of women’s gyms.
Reactions to her appointment
Saudi journalist Khalid Almeena stated "People are very excited about this [her appointment]." Prince Talal considered her appointment as part of a larger process of change, initiated by King Abdullah even before his coronation, when he was still crown prince. He further stated that this appointment was good news for men even more than women, and was a call for women to take their natural place in society. Faisal bin Abdallah, education minister, also welcomed her appointment as a deputy. He told that the Saudi education ministry was proud to be the first to have a woman in a ministry post, and that women help men in numerous areas, including in education. However, Ali Alyami argued that her appointment was largely a move to make democratic reformers ineffective in and outside the country with the goal of reducing global criticism over the Saudi segregationist policies and oppression of women. For him, this move strengthens and reinforces King Abdullah’s position in the country. Shortly, he thought that her appointment led to a short-lived positive impact on the psyche and ethos of Saudi society, but it did not last for a long-time.