Saudi Arabia Allows Women to Drive for First Time
A plan to better the lives of women living in Saudi Arabia
Wednesday marked a historic day for women in Saudi Arabia. A royal decree now allows women of the region to drive, without the permission of a male guardian. In a country where women need permission from a male guardian to do pretty much anything, this is huge. This is all part of a plan set by His Majesty The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to reform and change the kingdom's economy. He believes in the power of women and the need for social change.
Women in Saudi Arabia
There are still things that need to be done in this male dominated country. According to a CNN article, here is a list of things women can and still cannot do in Saudi Arabia:
-Women cannot, “marry, divorce, travel, open a bank account, get a job or have elective surgery without permission from their male guardians.”
-Women cannot, “mix freely with members of the opposite sex.”
-Women cannot, “appear in public without wearing a full-length black abaya.”
– Women cannot, “conduct certain business without a male sponsor.”
– Women cannot, “retain custody of their children in a divorce after they reach the age of seven for boys and nine for girls”
– Women cannot, “apply for a national identification card or passport without male permission”
– Women cannot, “eat at restaurants that don't have a separate designated family section.”
– Women cannot, “get a fair hearing in court, when one man testimony is equal to two women’s.”
– Women cannot, “receive an equal inheritance.”
-Women can, “vote in local elections.”
-Women can, “be appointed to the Consultative Council.”
-Women can, “attain a college education.”
-Women can, “play sports and compete in the Olympics.”
Saudi’s strict practice of following Islamic Law makes it harder for women to play a vital role in society and gain equal rights. However, prince MBS and activists have pushed for women to drive freely and called to close the gender gap.
Getting Behind the Wheel
Manal al-Sharif was jailed back in 2011 after she posted a video of herself on YouTube driving in Saudi Arabia. According to The New York Times, “Ms. Sharif was instrumental in organizing groups of women for collective protests to demand an end to the ban on female drivers. She was arrested at the time for taking part in the actions, and later wrote a book about her experience. She now lives in Australia.”
Her defiance led to the creation of the Women2Drive campaign , which helped catapulted this movement. She celebrated the victory with a selfie behind the wheel.
“The mindset has shifted,” said Sultana al-Saud from Riyadh to The Guardian. “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. 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,” she said in reference to a government plan to transform Saudi society. “We are part of this big vision. We women are now taken into consideration.”
No longer is Saudi Arabia the only country that does not allow women to drive. Women are becoming more educated in Saudi with the need of normalization in their own country.
Thanks to Prince bin Salman, his Vision 2030 plan looks to drastically change society and the oil-dependent economy. He also has created an entertainment authority that hopes to bring in more local spending, from concerts to movies.
“We refer to the negative consequences of not allowing women to drive, and the positive aspects of allowing them to do so, taking into consideration the necessary Shari’ah regulations and compliance with them,” King Salman said in the decree according to The Wall Street Journal.
“We are very excited. We are over the moon,” says Hatoon al Fassi, a Saudi historian and one of the leaders of the campaign to let women drive. “Our struggle, the years of work have at last yielded a result, our right has been realized. It’s a historical moment. King Salman made a historical decision.”
This cultural shift looks to better the lives of women as a whole.
“Women in Saudi Arabia deserve the right to choose what they want to do with their life. This small step will hopefully be a stepping stone to bigger reforms,” said JK.
With the 2030 plan now underway, the future for women seems empowering.