Saudi Arabian women’s right to drive regenerates hope


Graphic by Shreya Seetharam

Medha Prodduturi, Contributing Writer

In Saudi Arabia, women have been fighting for equal access to education, equal pay, and a say in politics since the 1800’s. With the advent of globalization and mass communication in a world rife with inequality, now is the time to finish the fight for women’s rights on a global scale. However global change happens at a national and local level; in Saudi Arabia, a nation that is ranked 145 out of 148 in terms of gender inequality, that fight is for women to attain a driver’s license.

On Sep. 26, 2017, King Salman signed the royal decree allowing Saudi Arabian women the right to get behind the wheel. Being the last country to allow women to drive, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman believes this decision will increase the number of women in the workplace and awareness of gender inequality. Moreover, The Week UK wrote, “Although women were not technically banned from driving under Saudi law, local authorities consistently refused to issue women with a driving license.”

Wajeha al-Huwaider founded the Association for the Protection and Defense of Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia in order to help women gain the right to drive. A campaign called “Women2Drive” started in June 2011. To the 47 women who participated in the protest to drive around the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and to many more, this law is another step towards achieving goals to which they have long aspired.

According to the New York Times, Madiha al-Ajroush, a trained psychologist, said, “We are looking for a normal way of life…for me to get into my car and do something as small as get myself a cappuccino or something as grand as taking my child to the emergency room.”

For these women to have hopes as small as being recognized as a free individual makes sense. Because for almost their entire existence, women are pretty explicitly taught that they are inferior to men and this is even more prevalent in places like Saudi Arabia. It is clear these women have fewer rights than we do. They have little access to education and not many live under the right circumstances. Today, younger women have a greater desire to call for gender equality compared to older generations. Nowadays, we are able to distinguish between a balanced and an imbalanced community. This is not only because of a more educated public, but also a higher rate of opportunities for women to fight for rights they deserve.

Some might say there are more fundamental issues concerning the rights of Saudi Arabian women to fight for. But in order to get there, they have to start somewhere. Progress is beneficial no matter how small. Although this is a very small step taken by the government, it has an immense effect on women all across the world, most importantly women of Saudi Arabia. It is a stimulation to keep fighting and become more active. This victory brings them one step closer to achieving the equality they rightfully deserve.