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Female Newsreader Makes On-Air History in Saudi Arabia

In a year when many women in the Kingdom have been making firsts, Saudi Arabia has another one to add to the list. Journalist Weam Al Dakheel became the first woman to anchor Saudia TV’s main evening news bulletin this week, appearing on the state-owned channel’s 9.30pm newscast on Thursday night.

While Al Dakheel is not the first female anchor to appear on Saudi TV, women traditionally have fronted softer news features, such as morning news bulletins, cooking shows, and weather programs. Al Dakheel appeared alongside anchor Omar Al Nashwan in her ground-breaking slot, with her role coming two years after Saudi’s first female anchor presented the morning news. “Jumanah AlShami was the first woman to present morning newscasts in 2016. Today history repeats itself as #WeamAlDakheel becomes the presenter of the main nightly newscast, setting a precedent in an historic first for Saudi TV 1,” Saudi TV said on its official Twitter channel.

Her appearance was widely lauded on social media after the news bulletin aired, with many celebrating the small-screen milestone. Al Dakheel has previously worked as a reporter for CNBC Arabia and as a presenter for the Bahrain-based Al-Arab News Channel, according to the Daily Mail.

Her new role comes shortly after the Kingdom lifted its decades-old driving ban on female motorists in June. The lifting of the ban was first announced last September, and now women are legally able to drive themselves throughout the Kingdom, ending a dependence on private chauffeurs. The reform came as part of a sweeping raft of social and economic changes made as part of Vision 2030, a post-oil blueprint for Saudi helmed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The plan will allow Saudi Arabia to move towards a more modernized, tourist-friendly future, with aims such as increasing the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 22% to 30%. As of this year, females have also been allowed to attend sporting matches in select stadiums, and just last month Saudi Arabia passed a law to criminalize sexual harassment. 

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