Widespread enthusiasm by even UN over Saudi women drivers

By Sheena Amos

DUBAI 28 September 2017: There has been widespread enthusiasm – both within the kingdom and overseas – over the removal of the driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia.

According to reports, women over the age of 18 years will be allowed to obtain driving licences from June 2018. The kingdom employs up to a million foreign drivers – mainly Asian – to transport its women and children to work or schools or hospitals or shopping etc.

UN Secretary-General welcomes Saudi Arabia’s decision

United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has welcomed the decision by Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive cars in the country.

In a tweet, the UN chief noted that ending the restrictions represents an “important step in the right direction.”

According to reports, under the new law, women can legally obtain a driving licence without asking a male guardian for permission.

Also welcoming the announcement, the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, UN Women, “expressed hope that the move would “start the journey” to substantive equality for women and girls in the country, with more access to public spaces and life, increased participation in the job market and a life free of violence in all spheres.

“Women being able to apply for a driver’s licence in Saudi Arabia, and subsequently drive, is a long-awaited milestone […] that puts them on a par with their male counterparts in this one area of public life and gives them a right to a life-saving skill that they should never have been denied,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women, in a statement.

Major car manufacturer Ford said it welcomes the decree allowing women to drive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“This is a momentous step in line with Saudi leadership’s Vision 2030,” said Thierry Sabbagh, Managing Director, Ford Middle East. “We look forward to a new generation of women in the driving seat.”

Commenting on Saudi Arabia’s move to allow women to drive in the Kingdom from 2018, Selim Chidiac CEO of L’azurde, Saudi Arabia’s leading jewelry company, said:

“The decision to allow women to drive is a hugely significant milestone for the Kingdom. The move will be a welcome boost to the economy and to Saudi Arabia’s standing internationally.

“We have seen more efforts recently to empower and encourage women in the workplace and allowing women to drive is another step in the right direction. Clearly there may be some resistance to change and any reform should be in accordance with Sharia law, but overall this is a positive move that will benefit the country, its people and the wider region.”

From within Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal bin Khalid bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Asir Region, described the decision as a historic one which will enable Saudi women to drive cars according to prescribed legal and regulatory rules.

Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Awad bin Saleh Al Awad said that the decision to allow women to drive cars is a historic decision affirms the continuation of reform and development process in the kingdom in which women constitute a major part.

Shura Council member Noura Al Shaaban affirmed that the decision to allow women to drive cars is a landmark in the history of Saudi women and keeps pace with the current stage.

Dr. Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission, affirmed that the decision to allow women’s driving is culmination of women’s rights and their contribution to development.

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