Over the past two years, HH Princess Ameerah Al Taweel has taken an increasingly public role, accompanying HRH Prince Alwaleed on his international trips both to meet world leaders, and to look at the scale of poverty across the globe. As vice-chairwoman of the board of the Foundation, she is now spearheading many of its causes. In her first ever magazine interview, she reveals her vision for the future — and the challenges she must overcome to achieve her goals.
The first surprise is she agrees to an interview. The princess doesn’t do interviews. And why should she? As vice chairwoman of the board of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation, Princess Ameerah Al Taweel can let the results do the talking: on poverty alleviation, disaster relief, promoting East/West dialogue and empowering women, the Foundation has led the way in every sense. Go virtually anywhere in Saudi Arabia, and the fruits of its work can be found. Go to practically any country in Africa, and the Foundation’s legacy is there for all to see.
But Princess Ameerah, wife of HRH Prince Alwaleed, now has a role of her own to play — spearheading the drive for change. And it is a role that she is clearly ready for: confident, inspiring and seemingly born to lead, she already has many of the traits of her billionaire husband — emails are being fired across the world every minute, dozens of reports are on her desk marked “urgent”, and to her left there is the customary bank of television screens showing live business news from around the globe.
“I would love to be a person who clarifies the image of women in Saudi Arabia. We are not women who are covered head to toe in black walking behind men. We are not suppressed in our homes crying every day. That’s not us, believe me that’s not us,” she says.
She can say that again. In the past two years, the princess has played an increasingly public role in championing the causes of the Foundation, accompanying Prince Alwaleed on a number of international visits. She was also with him when the prince took his personal jumbo jet, stacked with medicines and food, to Pakistan in the aftermath of the floods. In a short space of time, she has seen a great deal of poverty and suffering — but also the seeds of change being sowed.
One of the key areas of focus at the Foundation has been the empowerment of women, particularly in Saudi Arabia. From initiatives in healthcare and education, right down to the training of women for specific jobs and even pre-marital medical consultations, the projects the Foundation has supported are countless. But for the princess, this is only the beginning.
She explains: “There are several causes I believe in, not being able to drive is bothering women here but I’m not going to be depressed if I am not driving. It is bothering me a little bit, but there are bigger issues that are far more important to me, like education.”
The key question is how long change will take, and at what pace? On both issues, Princess Ameerah stresses that she is satisfied with the current pace, and confident of long term progress.