Saturday, 26 October 2013

Saudi Issues: Women Driving

Today is the 26th of October, known as the Saudi women driving campaign say. Some women actually took the action and drove today, and some started two years ago like the the first woman who took the driving initiative seriously, Manal Al Shareef. Women driving in Saudi has been one of the most controversial issues recently. If you want to start a fiery conversation, just mention women driving. In my own family this topic is the start of many fights. Some strongly agree with it, and others can't stand the thoughts of it.

First, watch this video by the lady who started it all. Followed by a story of my own struggle. Then read on for the most common pros and cons people discuss.

Isn't it just inspiring? It actually brought tears to my eyes!

We all agree that driving is important because without it we won't be able to go anywhere. Especially in Saudi since we don't have a public transportation system. Local shops that are walking distance are dominated by men, and suitable shops for women are all miles away and are mainly located by a highway, which makes it even more impossible to go there on foot. Not all families have a willing male guardians who want to take them out. By going out, I don't only mean going shopping, but going to work, school, visiting family and other important things.

With more Saudi women working, the need for drivers is increasing! There are many working class families struggling with this issue. Let me tell you quickly about my own struggle with this issue.

After I graduated, I started working in a local university *mashallah*. Even though, the university is local to me, but its about an hour drive. My family has a driver (who gets 2000 SR a month excluding the car, the gas, his housing, car care, and everything else), but he drivers my aunt to her job, which has the same start as my job. So, I had to find another private driver. Finding him was a huge issue, and private drivers in Saudi take total advantage of the women's needs because they know their choices are very limited. So, he charged me 2000 SR (330 GBP) for a month five days a week. My mother also works, and she pays about 1000 SR for her driver. As three working females, we spend a minimum of 5000 SR (825 GBP) and thats without considering other charges for going to other places, gas or car maintenance.

Not to mention the million issues these drivers bring to our lives, and the fear women suffer from the whole driver. What if this driver stops in the middle of the desert and assault the poor woman in the back of the car? He is a stranger after all.

Real Story: 
My mom's coworker's driver got a better offer and he decided to leave her. One morning, after he dropped her to university he texted her saying he is no longer interested in working for her and told her to pick up the keys from the outside guard. When she went outside, she received the keys, but the car was GONE! Who would want to deal with this? If only she could drive herself.

Exception to the general ban of driving: 
There are some establishment within Saudi that allow women to driver, such as Saudi Aramco campus, which started half a century ago. Recently, the King Abdullah University city allowed women to drive as well.

Here are some of the Pros and Cons people discuss when they talk about women driving:


  • Driving will give women more freedom, and make them less dependant of their male guardian. 
  • Having less foreign drivers who charge so much 
  • Making the car journey safer instead of being under the mercy of a strange man. 
  • A women will be able to get to work and other places without begging all the males of her family to take her to one place (even her own sons). 
  • In case of an emrgancy, or the need to go to the hospital, a woman should be prepared to take action. What if her male guardian got injured, and she can't find another driver? 
  • It's a human right. The right of mobility. 
  • Driving will give women more freedom, and make them less dependant of their male guardian. 
  • Some Saudi men are not respectful towards women, and some will go out of their way when they see a women driving to harass her intentionally. Especially, teenagers and uneducated, close minded men.   
  • Saudi men and men who drive in Saudi -generally- don't follow any rules and they just drive not caring about any one on the road. There are all sorts of violations on the street and women might not be ready for that. 
  • The Saudi roads are so messed up and they are not fit for more people to drive.  
Speaking of the Cons, here is a comical song that shows the perspective of some men who are against women driving:

Other Important Issues in Saudi: 
Driving is certainly not the only problem that people should focus on. There are issues of housing, starting a business, medical care, education, women employment and the laws of women travelling outside of Saudi. Like any country, Saudi has room to develop and improve. The good and the bad is present everywhere, and there is not a perfect country out there. Each one has issues that its dealing with.

Feel free to share your struggles/thoughts in the comments bellow and please remember to be respectful and kind to each other. 

No comments:

Post a Comment