Imagine a busy highway intersection, packed with cars and trucks. Now, imagine looking into the window of every single one of those cars to find only one type of person in the driver’s seat: men.
This was the reality in Saudi Arabia up until just a few days ago. Saudi women were forbidden to drive, and instead had to ask male relatives or hire drivers to take them everywhere. Some women spent up to a third of their salaries hiring drivers.
This newest change in Saudi Arabian law, which will take effect in June 2018, represents the end of a policy that has been a symbol of Saudi Arabia’s ultra-conservative ideals. This trend to support working women in Saudi Arabia was set into motion in 2015, when women were given the right to vote and run for local council.
The Road to Change
The road to the passage of this new policy was not completely smooth, however. The traditional culture of Saudi Arabia proved very resistant to the idea of women being allowed to drive. This is due to the fact that women are generally viewed as less than men in public roles.
This new policy was finally passed thanks to Saudi Arabia’s new prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who supported women’s right to drive as part of his plan to bring change in the kingdom as well as improve his country's image internationally. There is hope that this policy will inspire more women to join the workforce and ease the burden on women who are already working, as they won’t have to find someone to drive them.
This news is certainly a step in the right direction for Saudi Arabia, however, there is still much to be done. The next thing on the agenda: getting rid of Saudi Arabia’s “guardianship” laws, which state that women cannot travel abroad, work, or even undergo medical procedures without the approval of a male relative!