Rumy al-Qahatani is a 27-year-old model and influencer. She will be the first woman to compete in the Miss Universe pageant for Saudi Arabia. The global beauty pageant will take place in Mexico in September this year.

Qahtani announced the news of her Miss Universe debut in a post on her Instagram account. “I am honored to participate in the Miss Universe 2024 pageant,” she wrote in her post. And further: “This is the first participation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Qahtani is an experienced competitor when it comes to Miss pageants. Since being crowned Miss Saudi Arabia 2021, she has won several pageants, including the titles of Miss Middle East and Miss Arab World Peace. The model shares her travels and beauty contests on Instagram with a million followers. According to women’s magazine Laha, Qahtani was born in Riyadh and has a degree in dentistry. She is also fluent in Arabic, French and English.

The participants in the Miss pageant prepare for months. They have to be able to pass in three categories on their big day. They present evening dresses, demonstrate their personality and are rigorously questioned – this can include tips on how to appear confident as well as political conflicts.

Saudi Arabia’s debut at Miss Universe marks a milestone for the Islamic country, which is increasingly opening up to the Western world. The conservative kingdom is on the way to further women’s rights reforms. A path that remains rocky, however.

Since his appointment in June 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has taken several steps to promote gender equality. This is happening as part of the so-called Vision 2030. This envisages social and cultural reforms for the kingdom. For example, Saudi Arabian society is to be digitally transformed and modernized. Another goal is to diversify the oil-based economy.

In June 2018, for example, Saudi Arabia lifted its long-standing ban on women driving. In April 2018, women were allowed to take part in a concert for the first time – the first mixed-gender event in the kingdom. And in 2019, Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud signed a law that no longer requires women to seek a man’s permission to travel or obtain a passport.

Despite the apparent reforms, human rights groups continue to report discrimination and violations of women’s rights in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia was ranked 131st out of 146 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Gender Gap Index.

And most recently, Amnesty International called on UN member states to review their decision to hand Saudi Arabia the chairmanship of the UN Women’s Rights Forum.

“Saudi Arabia’s disastrous record in protecting and promoting women’s rights draws attention to the huge gap between the realities for women and girls in Saudi Arabia and the Commission’s aspirations,” Amnesty International’s Sherine Tadros said last week .

Quellen: Al-Monitor, Grazia