One year ago today, women in Saudi Arabia were legally allowed to drive on the Kingdom’s roads for the first time, a landmark and life-changing event for many Saudi women and an undeniable leap forward for Saudi Arabia’s ongoing economic and social reforms.
June 24, 2018 was the first day in which Saudi women were allowed to drive legally, thanks to a royal decree issued on Sept. 26, 2017 that ushered the new law into existence. Many female drivers, including Shoura Council member Leena Almaeena, started driving right after midnight.
Traffic police handed out flowers to female motorists in the morning.
One year after women in Saudi Arabia were allowed to drive for the first time, Lulwa Shalhoub, a resident of Jeddah, described the move’s life-changing impact in an interview with the BBC.
“Since the bar on women driving was lifted, I have never felt as empowered and independent.”
“Not only have I finally bought my first car, but I also get to drive it. It sounds like common sense to be able to do so. But for decades, women here would buy cars with their names on the registration documents, but never get behind the wheel…Here, having a car is a necessity due to the lack of a reliable public transport system. I now drive myself to work, run day-to-day errands and meet friends at restaurants and cafes without needing to wait for a private driver or a male relative to take me.”
Another Saudi woman, Munerah Al-Ajlan, called the last year since women were granted the right to drive “very empowering.”
“I could sense my independence every time I open the driver’s car door,” Al-Ajlan said.
The Kingdom is still adjusting to women drivers. An Arab News report today said that there are still considerable waits for women to attend driving school, and that most driving schools are still located within universities in Saudi Arabia.
“It took longer than I expected, but once that process began, everything was professional and clear,” Al-Ajlan said.