Six years ago Saudi activist Manal al-Sharif became the face of the women’s driving movement after making headlines when she posted a Youtube video of herself driving in Saudi Arabia. At the time, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world that banned women from driving. Ms. Al-Sharif was arrested and jailed for her activism.
Flash-forward to the recent news that Saudi driving ban is finally lifted and yes, Ms. al-Sharif says she is “overjoyed” by the “historic” news. “There is nothing really more difficult than this fight for women to drive because it touches every single woman. This is the one that emancipates them.”
Thomson Reuters reports that “for more than 25 years, women activists have campaigned to be allowed to drive, defiantly taking to the road, petitioning the king and posting videos of themselves at the wheel on social media. The protests brought arrests and harassment.”
Manal al-Sharif says that the difficult activist work is not over for women in her native country and has her sights firmly on the next mission. “Abolishing the male guardianship – period. You can not empower women to become anything in your country if she still needs a man’s permission.” As Thomson Reuters explains, the male guardianship system requires women to get permission from a male relative before traveling overseas, getting married, or seeking medical care, and gives Saudi women a legal status that resembles that of a minor.
Ms. Al-Sharif currently lives in Australia where she is a working mother and yes, she happily has her own car… and driver’s license.