Saudi Arabia has selected Princess Reema bint Bandar as the country’s de facto minister for women’s sports. This year, the kingdom doubled the number of its female athletes from two to four.
Saudi’s Cabinet announced on Tuesday that Princess Reema would head the General Authority for Sports without disclosing further details about her role.
The daughter of the ex-ambassador to the US, Princess Reema spent much of her youth in Washington, D.C. “I am honored to serve my country,” she was quoted as saying by the SPA state news agency.
Female athletics have historically not been encouraged in the kingdom, though recently there have been calls for change. In an unprecedented move, one state school introduced sports for girls in 2014.
Evolving on women’s sports
In an interview with Fast Company magazine, Princess Reema said she has been working to promote women’s empowerment in the country.
“Our society tend to change a bit slower than other,” she told the magazine last year. “We have to explain to people that it’s evolution, not Westernization.”
The Cabinet’s announcement comes as the kingdom gears up for the 2014 Olympic Games in Rio, where four of its women athletes will compete alongside seven male athletes. That number represents an increase of 50 percent from the number of Saudi women who competed in the last Olympic games.