On September 26, 2017 women all across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia celebrated a triumph that was unforeseeable. For more than 50 years women were deprived of the right to drive within Saudi Arabia. This law forced women to be dependent on men and left women immobile without the aid of a male driver.
The lift of this ban would not have been possible without the heroic women of the #women2drive movement. The women of the #women2drive campaign dared to drive on a road solely dominated by men and received harsh punishments in doing so, yet these women pressured their government more and more with every drive. These women deserve praise for not only influencing the lift of this ban, but for uniting women all over the kingdom over the triumph.
“Saudi women at the DMV were so helpful and filled with joy. They helped me translate my papers in order to receive my own license. I never felt so united with women I didn’t know” said Luz Edith Florez of the time she received her Saudi Arabian license.
Saudi women anxiously awaited the day they would finally be able to drive on their own: June 24th, 2018. Surprisingly, men have also been supportive of this step for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. During the first week of women being allowed to drive, policemen handed out flowers to women drivers.
“The driving instructor was very kind and joyful when I did my driving test. Additionally, men who drove by our testing site clapped for us in support,” said Diana Solano Florez of getting her license “It is great to see support from men in this victorious moment for women.”
Living in Saudi Arabia for 12 years, I’ve been able to see the change firsthand. When I first arrived in Saudi Arabia in 2006, women working and driving was unheard of. The thought was laughed at. Gradually, the stance on women’s rights issues began to change. I began to see women cashiers around the mall, women working at all levels, and now the unthinkable has happened: women are driving. Last summer my family and I discussed what it would be like if women could drive in Saudi, and we all doubted that it would become a reality while we still lived in Saudi Arabia. We couldn’t imagine a change that big occurring in Saudi Arabia’s conservative culture. Yet it has happened due to the persistence of women activists.
With a progressive Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia is due to change dramatically in the future. Soon, women will be allowed to attend sports events from which they were previously banned. As women drive all over the kingdom, free from the restraints men had placed on them for years, many are proven wrong: change is possible everywhere.
Laura Solano Florez was a 2018-2019 Girl Up Teen Advisor.