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Women Behind the Wheel

Saudi Arabian Women are Finally Able to Drive


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On September 26, 2017, Saudi Arabia agreed to lift the longstanding law that has banned women from driving. Being the only country that bans women from getting behind the wheel, Saudi Arabia is looked at as an ultraconservative kingdom and has constantly been ridiculed worldwide for their violation of human rights. This long awaited change will take place in June of 2018.

The announcement was made on state television, and in a media event taking place simultaneously in Washington. With the hope to reform their standing international reputation, the annunciation clearly states the damages the ban has placed on Saudi Arabia and their relations internationally.

Along with their hopes to reform their international reputation, leaders of Saudi Arabia also hope lifting this ban will help their economy and increase women´s ability to work. Women in Saudi spend majority of their salaries depending on paying male drivers or male relatives to bring them to work. Without this ban above their heads, Saudi women will now be able to take on driving lessons and finally take the driver’s seat of a vehicle.

A huge milestone has been made for Saudi women;  it is respected by both women and men in and out of the country.

“The mindset has be shifted,” said Sultana al-Saud. “We weren’t waiting for our families to accept, we were waiting for something larger to back us up, a backbone, which is the government” – In regards to the government’s hopes to reform their country economically she says, “This is a huge step for women, it’s nice to see women behind the wheel metaphorically I believe it’s like her leading her life now. The patriarchy is slowly but surely turning to land of equality. This is amazing. It’s the first few steps of freedom, we didn’t even reach 2030 yet, We are part of this big vision. We women are now taken into consideration.”

In 2011, Manal al-Sharif was arrested for filming herself driving and posting it to her youtube platform. Being released from jail for something so small, or made her more determined to fight for the awakening of Saudi Women. In an interview in July with USA TODAY she stated. “My society is very conservative. Women are treated as minor who need protection and permission of men for almost everything.”

This groundbreaking law change will not only impact women, but will change the way women are viewed in a family setting. Women can now use their incomes to support their family; making their way up in a male dominated society. Families will now gain more, because the women in their lives are now able to use their money to benefit them as well or her needs. “The thing is, a house cannot function properly without a driver and a lot of families cannot afford to hire one,” says Maysoon Sleiman.

“This has nothing to do with religion, it’s our customs. Which is why I expect backlash and disapproval from a lot of women not just men. A long time ago, they used to shoot at satellite dishes because they were dubbed haram [forbidden], now they sell them. It’s going to be the same in this I believe. At least mothers can now safely drop their kids to school.”

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Women Behind the Wheel