In 2017, following the ascension of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to his role, Saudi Arabia announced a landmark decree to lift the country’s decades-old driving ban on female motorists. After years of being prohibited from driving themselves, the ban on women drivers was officially rescinded on June 24, 2018, resulting in thousands taking to the streets, as well as waves of celebratory messages and photos flooding print media and newsfeeds online.
This week, just a few months following what has been a real transformative change in the lives of women across the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia’s Traffic Department announced that the country has issued 40,000 licenses to female drivers since the ban was lifted. In addition, according to Saudi Gazette, Major General Muhammad Al-Bassami, the general director of the department, explained that there are additional plans in the near future to set up more driving schools for women across the Gulf kingdom.
“The experience of women driving in the Kingdom is considered pioneering and exemplary,” he said, adding that work is being done with women driving school partners to implement international standards. “We have plans to create 14 driving schools for women in different regions to help ease the waiting list for women to get the license […] We have opened 22 centers to replace international valid licenses.”
The decision to lift the driving ban has been seen as one of the most prominent moves by the country’s young Crown Prince. Under his leadership, Saudi Arabia continues to move ahead with Vision 2030, an ambitious plan that is set to transform the Kingdom’s society and economy. From improving the rights of women in Saudi Arabia, to revising laws and creating more job opportunities outside the petroleum sector, the Kingdom is already on its path to change. In the capital today, groups of men and women sit unsegregated in a few cafes, a scene unthinkable just a few years ago, and public concerts and theatres now allow men and women to be present within the same space.