Driving change: Saudis end ban on women behind wheel

Monday, 25 Jun, 2018

WATCH: An historic change has taken place in Saudi Arabia-women are now allowed to drive.

"To all men I say, be gentle towards women" drivers, popular Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu said in an online video.

It may also take some time for enough driving schools that cater exclusively to women to be set up in Saudi Arabia, though when they are established they will "create a large number of job opportunities for female driving instructors", says PwC.

Women in Saudi Arabia will today take to the steering wheel for the first time as the ultra-conservative kingdom starts sweeping economic and social reforms, overturning longstanding restrictions rooted in a rigid interpretation of Islam. The ban had relegated women to the backseat, restricting when and how they move around.

Now she can driver herself to work - or anywhere she wants to go.

Saudi Arabia's notorious ban on women driving ended on Sunday.

While Ms Worthem conceded that the biggest impact of the change would be on drivers, she doesn't expect the workforce to be completely wiped out.

For almost three decades, outspoken Saudi women and the men who supported them had called for women to have the right to drive.

On November 6, 1990, 47 women drove themselves through the streets of Riyadh in an act of protest against, and in defiance of, the ban, stopping only when they were arrested.

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"There will be more cars on the road", Khalid Al-Falih said in Vienna, where he was attending an OPEC meeting.

The 25-year-old said that it took her 30 minutes to write the lyrics to the song and tune because she felt inspired.

The intervening night of June 23 and 24 in Saudi Arabia was different as behind the wheels in umpteen cars were not male drivers but females.

I asked her why campaigners for women driving had been arrested on the run up to the lifting of the ban. Until now, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world where women were legally required to be driven by chauffeurs or travel with male family members. Another 2,000 more will join the first ten, all of which passed driving courses now offered at all-female university campuses.

"I'm proud, proud, proud", says one man driving by the scene. The classes also cost several hundred dollars, far more than what men now pay.

"I see that this decision will make women equal to men and this will show us that women are capable of doing anything a man can do", said Fawaz al-Harbi.

Women in the capital Riyadh and other cities began zipping around streets bathed in amber floodlights soon after the ban was lifted at midnight, some in cars with thumping stereo music.

"We all know that culture does change with time", he said. "It will take me two months to save up enough to pay for the license fee", 20-year-old literature student Salwa al-Zahrat told Reuters, "and then it will take me three years to save up for a vehicle".

In a report, the Gulf Research Centre said it was not immediately clear how much of the low labour participation rate for women was because of the driving ban.