Ivanka Trump Advocates for Female Empowerment During Saudi Arabia Visit

Updated: May 22, 2017 10:30 AM ET | Originally published: May 21, 2017

Ivanka Trump spoke at a roundtable for women in Saudi Arabia Sunday to advocate for female empowerment, where she highlighted the progress that has been made in a country often spotlighted for its treatment of women.

"You stand on the front lines in the fight for gender equality," Trump told the women gathered at the discussion. "Saudi Arabia’s progress is encouraging, but there is still work to be done – and freedoms and opportunities to continue to fight for."

Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive and must be accompanied by a male guardian for tasks like obtaining a passport and getting married — topics that were addressed at the roundtable, according to the White House.

Last month, Human Rights Watch wrote that while Saudi Arabia has made strides towards improving gender equity, authorities leaving the male guardianship system in place has allowed "men to maintain control over female relative’s lives."

The First Daughter, who officially became a federal employee in March, described herself as a "female leader" in the Trump administration at the roundtable and told the women in attendance that her focus was empowering "women in the United States and around the world." It was a contrast from her appearance last month in Berlin at the W20 Summit, where she told the audience she was still determining what her exact role was in the White House.

Saudi Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud invited Trump to speak on the panel. Also in attendance Sunday was World Bank President President Jim Yong Kim, who announced that Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates would pledge $100 million to his organization's facility devoted to global female entrepreneurship. The exact breakdown was not specified.

A World Bank official said Kim was invited by the Saudi Arabian government to attend the Arab Islamic American Summit and subsequently attended the event with the First Daughter.

Read More: Melania and Ivanka Trump's Outfits in Saudi Arabia Contradict President Trump's Old Tweet

"We are very grateful for the incredibly generous contributions from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and Ivanka Trump's powerful advocacy for these issues," Kim said in a statement provided by the White House.

The White House has said this facility, which was reported to be in the works last month, was Ivanka Trump's idea, but noted that she would have no involvement in the solicitation or allocation of any funding.

But the announcement that Saudi Arabia would be participating yielded criticism from Trump opponents given that he had repeatedly ridiculed Bill and Hillary Clinton for accepting donations from Saudi Arabia for the Clinton Foundation.

"If I had a nickel for every time Trump criticized foreign governments donating to the Clinton Foundation...." former Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

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