24th of June 2018 will mark the beginning of a new era for women as they prepare to get behind the wheel and edge towards another step towards their independence in the kingdom.
After becoming a national and international headline, Saudi Arabian officials say they’re prepared for the newly qualified drivers to hit the road and oil company Shell made an advertisement to address how Saudi men feel about the new change.
The advertisement speaks to 5 men of various social backgrounds, being driven around and asked about their thoughts on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s decision to lift the ban on women driving.
The men in the clip initially express fears for the women they know: “Driving in Saudi isn’t easy,” admits one Saudi man. “I’m not questioning women’s ability to drive. I’m just worried for their safety, but we shouldn’t let our fears stand in the way of change,” adds another.
After that, all of the men speak about the women in their lives and the strength and determination they demonstrate, “My sister’s a pilot for crying out loud! How can she be told she can’t drive a car?” asks one of the men, “Women helped drive entire generations. Why can’t they be trusted behind a steering wheel?”
The TV advertisement tugs at the heartstrings as it comes to an emotional end where the men are dropped off in front of a screen showing pictures of their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters and as they are looking at the screen, those women surprise them by getting into the car they are sat in, but in the driver’s seat.
The careers of the men in the ad are run across the bottom of the screen and show that in the group, there is a doctor, a TV personality, a hip hop artist, and even an international rollerblader.
In Saudi Arabia, this April, women were offered free driving lessons across social media with the objective to offset the extortionate price of official classes.
The decision to allow women to drive comes as part of Saudi Arabia’s post oil plan, Vision 2030, under which the government aims to see an increase of at least 5% in the number of Saudi women in the workforce. More jobs will be created as the entertainment industry is also set to grow following Crown Prince MBS’s plans to make Saudi a tourist-friendly destination.
Since Prince Mohammed bin Salman has taken up his leadership position, many positive reforms have been made, including women being able to attend sporting events at public stadiums in 3 Saudi cities from this year as well as the fact that more Saudi females have been appointed to top jobs previously awarded to men.
A new royal directive has also now allowed women to use particular government services without the consent of a male guardian, and most recently, an approval has been issued for the opening of women’s gyms.