By Nawab Khan
BRUSSELS, Dec 6 (KUNA) -- A five-member women delegation representing the civil society in Saudi Arabia paid a first-ever visit to the European Union this week aimed at building bridges and removing misunderstandings.
They held meetings with EU officials, Members of European Parliament, think tanks and the civil society during their three-day visit, which concluded on Wednesday.
Dr. Maha Al-Muneef, a pediatrician and graduate from Yale university in the US, told KUNA in an interview that "it was a very extensive programme."
Al-Muneef, who led the delegation, said that it was a first-ever visit of such a delegation to EU institutions with the aim to inform the European side about the situation of women in Saudi Arabia and also learn from the other side about their experiences.
"They asked a lot of questions but I realised that there was a lack of information and they don't know much about the day-to-day happenings in our country," she said.
"They are not aware of the progress regarding the women's and human rights issues in Saudi Arabia," noted Al-Muneef, who is also the founder for the national family safety programme in Saudi Arabia.
"I think our visit helped in removing the big walls between us and them and to clear the obstacles by explaining to them the situation in our country," she said, adding "we learned from them also."
She called for more such frequent visits by Saudi women groups to Brussels.
On her part, Amal Al-Muallimi, board member of human rights committee in Saudi Arabia said, "during these tough times we need to build bridges and communication and we need to open up to the rest of the world.
"We have to clarify things for them and also hear from them and take their point of view into consideration," she told KUNA.
"They gave some good advice and we could apply them but sometimes they have misleading information," said Al-Muallami, who is a consultant at King Abdullah International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.
She noted there is a lot of trade and commerce between the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council. "What we want to have from this visit is a solid partnership, a strategic friend and not only a customer for oil or anything else."
The Saudi women delegation also attended a charity event organised by the Kuwaiti embassy in Brussels on Tuesday.
Other members of the delegation included Ghada Al-Ghunaim, speaker on women's education in Saudi Arabia; Khulood Al-Dukhail, speaker on banking, investment and women participation in the private sector; and Moudhi Al-Jamea, speaker on cybersecurity. (end)