Saudi women take the wheel
01-Oct-2017


The long, long wait is over: starting in June 2018, Saudi women will finally be allowed to drive. The news echoed around the world as the only country that bans women from driving finally announced via royal decree that its female citizens would be allowed to get behind the wheel. If the royal decree is fairly implemented, it will change the lives of women in the Kingdom, and have a positive ripple effect on Saudi society as a whole.

The lifting of the ban on Saudi female drivers will change the lifestyles of Saudi women. It will widen their economic opportunities, as they will be able to easily commute to a job. It will give them more independence and control over their own lives to do simple things such as going to the store to buy groceries. Women will no longer have to depend on family members, a family driver or pay costly taxis to get about with their daily lives.

By being able to drive Saudi women will be able to play a greater role in society, which is critical if Saudi Arabia aims to achieve its Vision 2030 goals. Indeed, the big motivation behind the decree seems to be reaching the 2030 goals, one of which is to increase female workforce participation from 22 to 30 percent. If women have to rely on someone else to drive them, that simply cannot become a reality.  Furthermore, the government hopes that women driving will “transform traffic safety to educational practice” so that it reaches its goal of reducing traffic accidents—a common occurrence in the Kingdom—although how this will work is unclear.

It is extremely important that the lifting of the ban is implemented in a fair and timely fashion. Due to roll out in June 2018, will all women over the age of 18 allowed to drive (the same age as men), there has been no word yet if there will be additional restrictions on women, such as when and where they can drive. A committee has been given 30 days to figure out how to implement the new decree. While it may seem to be a no-brainer (let them attend driving school!) the process is more complicated since generally men and women are separated in Saudi Arabia. 

Saudi women’s gaining the right to drive is arguably the biggest feminist victory of 2017. If the new decree is implemented fairly than it will be an absolute game changer in the lives of Saudi women and will no doubt lead to greater gender equality reform.


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