Riyadh: Saudi women have hit the roads for the first time in their country as the kingdom lifts ban on females driving. The end of the controversial ban brings the ultra-conservative Gulf nation into line with the rest of the world.
It also represents the culmination of years of campaigning by activists who have sometimes been arrested and imprisoned for their efforts. The landmark step will free many women from the constraints of needing to use public transportation or hire a male driver to travel even small distances, allowing many more to join the workforce.
Hiring women is a key part of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plan to overhaul its economy, known as Vision 2030. The reform agenda is being spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
When the decision to lift the ban was announced last September, many women reacted with joy, hailing the new capacity it would give them to work, grow their own businesses and explore the kingdom — although many other restrictions on women’s everyday lives remain in place.
The kingdom has already issued its first driver’s licenses to a handful of Saudi women, in exchange for ones they acquired while overseas.