One step at a time, Saudi women gain right to drive

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that doesn’t allow women to drive or obtain a driver’s license. That will change in June 2018.

On Sept. 26, King Salman, the reigning king of Saudi Arabia, announced he was lifting the ban against women driving. It’s an important step for the Saudi community.

As a person raised in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), I was shocked to hear the news. I shed tears of joy to see my home country change. It was hard to believe so I decided to dig a little deeper.

Although the law was announced this week it will not go into effect until June 2018. Women will be allowed to drive but there are strict rules they must follow regarding age, time of day, dress code and learning the traffic rules as first-time drivers.

 A woman drives a car in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of a campaign by locals to defy Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving.

A woman drives a car in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of a campaign by locals to defy Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving.

Although women in Saudi have not been allowed to drive, they still use transportation to get around. Most of the women residents have drivers or they can take a taxi, use Uber or the local company, Kareem. Saudi Arabia is also creating a train service for women.

A lot of women in Saudi fought for their right to drive although there was not an actual law that kept them from it. It was a societal ban based on the cultural norms of the country.

Saudi women felt they didn’t have the right to drive. In Saudi Arabia, women must have the permission of a male guardian or “Mohram” to do many things American women take for granted. A “Mohram” may be their father, brother, husband or son.

I’m thrilled that Saudi women are growing, progressing and empowering other women. I think this is a step in the right direction to allow women to pursue their dreams.

People are talking about how KSA is changing. They recently allowed women to enter a sports stadium to celebrate a gender-mixed party celebrating the National Day of Saudi Arabia.

Not all women will embrace the new law. Having a driver removes a lot of responsibilities. Traffic is a big deal for me.  I think the law is being changed in part to reduce the stereotyping of the country.

As a young woman raised in Saudi Arabia, I think it’s good that they will allow women to drive, but having a driver is a memory that I won’t forget. It’s part of what makes the country special.