Saudi Arabia job growth likely as woman driver ban ends

25 June, 2018, 03:49 | Author: Charlene Valdez
  • Final hours of Saudi Arabia ban on female drivers

Women in Saudi Arabia were able to take to the roads at midnight on June 24, ending the world's last ban on female drivers, long seen as an emblem of women's repression in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.

But in Saudi Arabia, it is believed that the end of the driving ban will allow many more women to join the workforce in the kingdom, whose economy shrunk by 0.2 per cent past year due to low oil prices. As for the male drivers on the road, "they were really supportive and cheering and smiling", she said.

The lifting of the ban, which for years drew global condemnation and comparisons to the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan, has been welcomed by Western allies as proof of a new progressive trend in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia eased into its first commuter day with women on the roads without a hitch on Sunday.

Three of those still detained- Aziza al-Yousef, Loujain al-Hathloul and Eman al-Nafjan- are seen as icons of the women's rights movement in Saudi Arabia.

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Granting women the right to drive is part of a wider blueprint for the future drawn up by the crown prince.

In April 2017 King Salman ordered that all government agencies should allow women to access government services without a male guardian's consent unless required by existing regulations.

One cleric claimed women were not smart enough to drive, while another warned that those who drive risk damaging their ovaries and bearing children with clinical problems.

She thinks that some Saudi women will take a wait-and-see approach to learning to drive, rather than jumping straight in.

In 1990, during the first driving campaign by activists, women who drove in Riyadh lost their jobs and were barred from traveling overseas, even as women in other conservative Muslim countries drove freely.

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Young women were spotted present in various exhibits where traffic officials instructed them on handlings of a auto.

Aseel Al-Hamad drove a Renault Formula One auto around the French Grand Prix circuit in front of thousands of fans and declared the start of a new era for Saudi women in motorsport. Prosecutors accuse them of working with foreign entities and attempting to harm the interests of the kingdom.

The billionaire prince, who is one of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud's nephews, set up a foundation which is described on its website as being dedicated to supporting women's empowerment among other things. And the classes can be costly, running several hundred dollars.

"It feels weird; I am so happy".

Though Mr Gasnier doesn't expect women to rush out and buy a vehicle straight away. But the young people are motivated and we need at this time someone like Mohammed bin Salman - motivated, God bless him, and daring.

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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. "It was a memorable night, not only because I took to the wheel in Saudi, but because my 18-year-old daughter was alongside me".

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