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Saudi Arabia's $90 billion boost from women drivers

25 June, 2018, 01:33 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • Final hours of Saudi Arabia ban on female drivers

"Saudi Arabia has just entered the 21st century", he said in the video to his granddaughters in the back seat.

In a few hours, she says she'll drive herself to work for the first time in Saudi Arabia.

Renault stole a march on their Formula One rivals on Sunday when they gave a Saudi Arabian woman a chance to mark a special day by driving one of their cars ahead of Sunday's French Grand Prix.

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

But many Saudi women nevertheless credit decades of fearless activism for the end of the driving ban.

Criticism has since been muted after King Salman announced a year ago that women would be allowed to drive. Many women drivers also revealed they are cautiously bracing for a backlash from arch-conservatives who spent decades preaching that allowing female motorists would promote promiscuity and sin.

They ensured restaurants and stores closed their doors for daily prayers and waved sticks at women who had their hair or face uncovered, shouting through microphones attached to the tops of their cars as they patrolled the streets. "We have seen a decent amount of people saying they would keep a driver on to take children to school", she said.

"Now, thanks to God, I can plan out my own schedule and my errands and my daughters' errands", al-Mari said.

Saudi Arabia ended its status as the last country on earth to prohibit women from taking to the wheel.

Just last month, the pendulum appeared to swing away from the latter when several prominent women's rights activists who were at the forefront of calls to lift the driving ban were arrested.

Hadid added that while the lifting of the ban "is a long-overdue small step in the right direction, [it] must now be followed by reforms to end a whole range of discriminatory laws and practices", including the country's restrictive guardianship laws that require women to get the consent of male guardians for a variety of basic needs.

"It was ideal. Everything was smooth, I felt I belong in the seat", she said afterwards.

Others are training at new state-run schools, with three million women expected to drive by 2020.

Allowing women on the road is part of a transformation in the way women are regarded that could extend beyond Saudi Arabia's borders, according to Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir. "Some naughty guys, you know", she said, giggling shyly.

"I have never been (anything) but a good citizen who loves her country and wishes for it nothing but the best". "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 auto". The situation is a far cry from Kenya where women have nearly equal rights to men except in the conservative north.

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.

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