Friday, March 16, 2018

Wheeling and dealing

From the March 17, 2018 Saudi Gazette. You can link to the story here, and the text is below.

Female driving instructors complain of contract abuse

Saudi Gazette report

WOMEN campuses in Saudi Arabia plunged into a serious competition to become the first to give driving lessons to their female students and staff, no sooner than the royal decree overturning the ban on women driving was announced.

Princess Noura Bint Abdulrahman University (PNU) was in the forefront of this competition announcing the first driving academy for women in the country. Within just three days of the royal announcement, the university said on Twitter that it was ready to establish a driving academy for women in cooperation with the relevant authorities. Other universities followed suit saying that they too would establish schools to teach women the basics of driving.

Driving schools are expected to be in effect soon although the Traffic Department has not yet shared the exact dates or the requirements for driving schools around the country. Carmaker Ford Motor started a hands-on driving. At Effat University in Jeddah, some 250 female students participated in a three-day Driving Skills for Life Program, a global initiative Ford introduced in the Kingdom for women for the first time.

In early January, Noura University announced that it started accepting driving instructor applications. Women from all parts of Saudi Arabia go to Noura, the world's largest women-only campus, to pursue higher education. As such, it is undoubtedly the natural venue to launch the first driving academy to give practical training to women drivers.

The university said the applicants to the post of driving instructor must have a valid driver's license and a certified trainer permit, and they must be either Saudi or a resident living in the country.

As the university is set to start the driving academy, a group of instructors it had hired complained to Al-Hayat newspaper about the lack of clarity and transparency in their employment contracts.

They pointed out that what was presented to them was a job offer at the beginning of their training period. There was a clause that stipulated a SR7,000 penalty if the trainer resigned before the end of the two-year contract, they said.

The trainers said their salaries were much lower than their expectations. They said the university had announced an attractive pay package through its official Twitter account for the successful candidates. To their surprise, the salary offered to them on hiring was just SR4,000 with an additional 10 percent for transportation and 20 percent in housing allowance, which is very law considering the current economic changes and the high cost of living.

One of the applicants complained of the injustice during the evaluation of the admission test, noting that the time allowed for the test was just two minutes and it was held at a very narrow place.

She tried to retake the test but her request was rejected, she said while indicating that she possessed a driver's license from the United States.

"We have been contacted by e-mail giving us appointment for an interview, and then the supervisor told us everyone of us was accepted. But I was surprised when my name was not included in the training schedule. When I asked the supervisor, she said there was a new list and I was excluded. When I inquired about the reasons, she said she couldn't divulge it," the applicant said.

Another trainer coming from the Eastern Province said she was excited to land the job but soon became demotivated due to the work conditions.

"The salary is not attractive, nor the work environment. I was accepted in a job in the area where I lived for twice the salary I am offered now, but my dream was to earn the title of the first woman driving trainer in the country," she said.

She said one of her colleagues was expelled from the academy's office in an unprofessional manner because she demanded a reasonable salary. "My colleague expected to receive up to SR8,000 a month, but the employee made fun of her saying 'you are not a good fit for us'," she added.

Lawyer Abdulkarim Al-Qadi told Al-Hayat that a period of probation should be specified in any employment contract. He said such a period should not exceed 90 days according to Article 53 of the Saudi Labor Law. Either party may terminate the contract during the probation period without any liabilities toward the other, he added.

In its latest move in string of social and economic reforms, Saudi Arabia announced on Sept. 26, 2018, that it would lift an informal ban on women driving that existed in the country. A royal decree issued by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman said women would be allowed to drive in the Kingdom by June 2018, setting in motion a chain of activities and mechanisms for preparing the groundwork before the radical shift in the way women in the country conducted their affairs took effect.

For decades, the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia has been the center of extensive debates not only in social circles within the country but in foreign media as well. The royal decree referred to the negative repercussions of not allowing Saudi females to drive as well as the positive effects of lifting the ban would have on the freedom of mobility for women within the limits set by Islamic law.

In any case the authorities had asserted time and again that the prohibition on women driving in the Kingdom was a social matter, as there was no actual law or religious edict banning it.

However, many Saudi women are already skilled drivers with a large number of them driving own vehicles while staying abroad for education or other purposes. Moreover, Bedouin women in rural areas of Saudi Arabia drove cars and even trucks especially for movement of goods within large farms. However, they rarely ventured on to public roads in their vehicles.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Security coordinators in girls schools get safe driving training

The March 13, 2018 Saudi Gazette printed this story. A link to the story on-line is here, and the text is below.

In addition to basic driving lessons, the safe driving training will cover traffic regulations, safety precautions and road manners.
By Abdullah Al-Dahhas

Okaz/Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — The Department of Education in Makkah has started training as many as 770 women security coordinators in all girl schools in the three educational levels on safe driving.

The department has chosen 22 training programs for the coordinators who in turn will train the women staff in schools and girls in the third secondary school year.

The training programs will cover training on driving, the traffic laws, safety precautions and road manners.

The programs are designed to teach women holding educational and administrative jobs in the Ministry of Education the best methods of achieving traffic safety when women start driving in the Kingdom from June.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Transport has invited Saudi women to its "Safe Driving Environment" forum to test driving simulations using the ministry's smart transportation system.

The ministry has provided an opportunity for women drivers to experience safe driving in preparation for the implementation of the royal order lifting the ban on women driving in the country.

The official account of the ministry invited women via "Twitter" on Saturday to visit their pavilion to attend the "Safe Environment for Driving" forum, which is organized at King Saud University for female students using the ministry's smart system.

The ministry has partnered with King Saud University to organize the "Safe Environment for Driving" forum for the first time, which is the largest platform to support women drivers in the Kingdom yet.

Dr. Inas Al-Issa, vice dean of students affairs at the university, said the cultural forum was a response to the royal decree allowing women to drive.

She added it revitalizes the university’s role in society as it helps to raise awareness and disseminate the regulations and laws issued by the state’s bodies.

The change in the law on women driving comes into effect in late June.

Driving opens the door to unparalleled mobility and freedom for Saudi women. Now, they can get to jobs more easily without relying on anyone for transportation. This is especially important in areas without easily accessible public transport.

As of last year, the unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia was 12.7 percent, which meant 906,552 people were without jobs. About 75 percent of that number were women, which hopefully will drop drastically, with more women becoming mobile.

Meet the students of Saudi Arabia's first driving school for women

Norah O'Donnell of CBS News reports on how Saudi women are getting ready to drive in June.
This was published on March 14, 2018. A link to the story is here, and the text is pasted in below.
First, here is a link to the video broadcast in the US on March 14, 2018.
Link to CBS News video

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is making unprecedented changes in Saudi Arabia with a large focus on the role of women. The kingdom is the last country that denies women the freedom to drive, but that won't be for long. "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell went to the world's largest all-female university in Riyadh, where Saudi women are test-driving their freedom.
Dr. Ruba Alzuhairi is studying to become a surgeon, but she's also studying for her driver's license. She is one of the women paving the way at the driving school at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University – Saudi Arabia's first driving school for women.
"This will also decrease some of the cost that I'm paying on taxis, on a driver. This will help me be independent," Alzuhairi said.

"This is a small change, but it's a significant impact on our society," said another woman studying there. She says men are "significantly positive" about the idea. "That's why it's the right timing. Back in 2011 and 2013 there was negative reaction."
What's changed? "The whole society," says another woman.

Students at Princess Nora University's driving school
CBS News
Starting in June, women above the age of 18 will no longer have to rely on drivers or male relatives to get around. Wearing abayas – traditional garments they wear in public – Saudi women are now learning to drive at special facilities.
ike the other instructors, Dr. Deema Alsekait has a driver's license from living abroad. Hers is from the state of Virginia. Saudi leaders lifted the driving ban in part to boost women's participation in the workforce as the economy diversifies away from oil. "I can't wait. I'm so happy to be a part of it," Alsekait said.
 But challenges remain.

Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud  
CBS News
"We have two obstacles facing women here in our country. Transportation and child care. And we try from this school to solve these two problems," said Dr. Huda Alameel, director of Princess Nora University.
Those solutions include a nursery and a traffic village for older children. The lesson? That it's normal for girls to drive. Much has changed for Saudi women, who are entering new professions and graduating from universities in record numbers.
Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud is championing women's rights and she says driving is part of a bigger vision.
"To envisage change, you actually have to have a sense of where you'd like to go…. We would like women to have the opportunity for mobility, for decision-making, and for social integration. Today, mobility, June is going to be pretty much resolved," Princess Reema said. "Every and any woman will tell you, 'I want more, and I want it right now.' The issue is, right now for me is tomorrow for somebody else. So how do I make sure we all get to where we need to go together? That's actually a more difficult conversation than you would actually believe."
Driving, as one student put it, is just a "quick win." "It's not everything," she said. "It's progress. The trajectory now is just going forward and not backwards."
But the women agree they are witnessing history – and they're taking part in it.
"We're the ones that are going to tell our grandkids about it, that we lived through this."
Watch O'Donnell's full "60 Minutes" interview with the country's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, on Sunday, March 18, 2018, two days before the young Saudi leader is to meet with President Donald Trump   

Saudi transport ministry prepares women to drive cars safely

Al Arabiyah English reported the story below on March 12, 2018. A link to the story is here, text below. 

In preparation to implement Saudi King Salman’s decree allowing women to drive, the Saudi Ministry of Transport invited Saudi Women to its "Safe Driving Environment" forum to test driving simulations using the ministry's smart transportation system.
The Ministry of Transport in Saudi Arabia has provided an opportunity for Saudi women to experience safe driving in preparation for the implementation of the Royal Order in June.
The official account of the ministry invited women via "Twitter" on Saturday (March 10, 2018) to visit their pavilion to attend the "Safe Environment for driving" forum, which is organized at the University of King Saud for female students using the smart system of the Ministry.
The Ministry of Transport has partnered with King Saud University to organize the "Safe Environment for Driving " forum for the first time, which is the largest platform to support women drivers in the kingdom.
Last Update: Monday, 12 March 2018 KSA 11:57 - GMT 08:57

Nissan’s Women Drivers Campaign Highlighted at Dubai Lynx

Press release of March 13, 2018 from Nissan about their #SheDrives campaign (featured in our blog). A link to the release, carried in Albawaba Business, is here, and the text is below.

Nissan participated today in Dubai Lynx, the international festival of creativity, where the automaker shared its #SheDrives campaign that engaged with Saudi women following the decision to grant licenses.
Nissan was the first automotive brand to react to the Royal Decree. The topic was addressed by Nissan through different content until January 28, when an emotionally engaging and experiential video was posted on Nissan’s digital platforms that put Saudi women behind the wheel as they attend their first driving lesson. Each woman in the video touched upon how they still faced some subtle degree of resistance from their direct male relatives around the topic. The women then proceed to their lesson, but with surprise driving instructors: Their proud husbands, fathers and brothers hopped in the passenger seats to give the women their first-ever driving lesson, resulting in an inspirational three-minute video.
Hussein M. Dajani, Nissan’s General Manager for Digital and Customer Experience in Africa, the Middle East, Turkey and India, spoke at the prestigious event, where he discussed the analysis and approach behind the campaign and outlined the milestones that have paved the way for Saudi women, including universal suffrage in 2015. However, throughout this momentum of increasing social and political transformation, the communications and marketing industry has been slow to take bold steps towards engaging Saudi women through more meaningful and direct methods, Dajani noted.
“A series of events have caused a societal shift in the role Saudi women play over the years. This shift has been further accelerated with Saudi Vision 2030 leading to higher women employment rates and recently lifting the ban on women driving effective June 2018. For years, brands have been struggling with the polarity found between existing mindsets in the Kingdom, leaving marketers and brand owners alike often opting for 'safe routes' when communicating with Saudi women,” Dajani said. “It is time for brands to rethink their communications approach in the Saudi market. Our #SheDrives campaign illustrates how brands can play an impactful role in the lives of Saudi women.”
Given the interest today in women’s rights across the world, the video was timely and meaningful far beyond Saudi Arabia’s borders, and for that reason all markets in which Nissan operates drove the story on their channels. Content was provided in Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Japanese.

Uber pledges SR1m to support women’s driving in Kingdom

The Arab News published this story on March 12, 2018. A link to the story is here, and the text is below.

Uber has announced “Masaruky” (“your path” in Arabic) — a two year initiative that aims to increase women’s participation in the workforce through access to affordable transportation, in addition to increasing women’s access to flexible, part-time economic opportunities through the Uber technology.
The campaign will kick off with an initial SR1 million ($270,000) pledge to make driving schools accessible to more women who are interested in learning how to drive but may not have the resources to do so.
Anthony Khoury, Uber regional general manager, said: “With Masaruky and the announcement of the SR1 million pledge, we’re seeking to contribute to this new chapter for female mobility in the Kingdom. In the same way that our technology has brought a positive impact to more than 18 cities around the Kingdom, this will help us in further supporting women toward achieving their economic ambitions and goals — because not only do we enable more convenient ways to move around cities, but we also strive to drive change that is positive, meaningful and economically empowering”
This comes on the back of months of research to understand what transport solutions will best serve Saudi women on the road to Vision 2030. There are currently 1.3 million women in the Saudi workplace — 22 percent of the total workforce, a figure that the Kingdom’s government expects to increase to 30 percent by 2030.
The research, in collaboration with Ipsos, has found that 93 percent of Saudi women were positive about the recent lifting of the driving ban, mostly because it will allow them more flexibility to work. About 78 percent said they are likely to get a driving license post ban removal, and almost a third (31 percent) of those surveyed, indicated that they were interested in driving as an earning opportunity. An efficient way to make some extra disposable income and flexible hours were cited as some of the top reasons driving could be an earning opportunity for women in Uber.
Uber has been well received by driver-partners in the Kingdom since its launch. The company recently announced that it has already registered over 150,000 Saudi partner-drivers on the app, 65 percent of whom utilize Uber part-time.

Saudi women to transform kingdom's automotive industry

Bernd Debusmann Jr of Arabian Business reports this story on March 11, 2018. A link to the story is here,  and the story is pasted in below.

Car sales are expected to grow 9 percent a year until 2025 

A Saudi woman has a driving lesson in Jeddah on March 7, 2018. Photo: AMER HILABI/AFP/Getty Images.
Twenty percent of Saudi women – about three million - will drive by 2020, according to a new report from PwC Middle East.
According to the report, entitled “Women driving the transformation of KSA automotive market”, the kingdom’s royal decree that allowed women to drive from June 2018 will create new job opportunities for Saudi nationals. It will also lead to incremental new capital investment in infrastructure, increase insurance revenue, and be the catalyst for the creation of new, women-only driving schools.
“Saudi women have been behind numerous achievements and now visibly behind the wheel,” said Hala Kudwah, PwC Saudi Arabia financial services and consulting leader.
“When considering the scale of the market, our analysis tells us that there’s an opportunity to increase the number of driving institutions in the kingdom by over 50 percent, an increase that will be translated into job opportunities for our females.”
The report noted that female drivers will also have a significant impact on areas ranging from car sales to motor insurance.
Car sales, for example, are expected to grow by 9 percent each year until 2025 due to the demands of the new female customer segment, while the annual growth rate for car leasing is expected to have an annu
Additionally, the motor insurance market is expected to grow 9 percent annually to reach SR 30 billion ($8 billion) in 2020.
"There would be dependencies such as necessary infrastructure and services to support female drivers; for example, women driving instructors, driving schools, licenses issuance, etc,” Kudwah added.
“However we are mindful of the significance of early successes to fully reap the fruits of this milestone in the women empowerment journey.”
Laurent Depolla, PwC Middle East’s partner, deals strategy and preparations, noted that the forecast of the kingdom’s automotive market presents “an array of opportunities for market players and investors.”
al growth rate of 4 percent between 2017 and 2025.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Saudi women hope right to drive paves road to bigger freedoms

Multi-faceted article from CBCNews about changes for Saudi women and society. A link to the story is here, and the text pasted in below.

Will male-guardianship rules be the next to go?

By Sylvia Thomson, CBC News Posted: Mar 08, 2018 4:00 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 08, 2018 1:43 PM ET
In recent years, Saudi women have felt more liberated to express themselves in public, as seen in this image taken near the Riyadh dam. Photographer Maheda Al Ajroush had to ask the girls' father for permission to take the picture.
In recent years, Saudi women have felt more liberated to express themselves in public, as seen in this image taken near the Riyadh dam. Photographer Maheda Al Ajroush had to ask the girls' father for permission to take the picture. (Maheda Al Ajroush)

 There's an advertisement making the rounds on Twitter that features a GIF of a woman's purse that has spilled onto a table. The splayed contents include dark sunglasses, red lipstick and a bottle of perfume — and then, a key fob for a luxury car slides into the frame, seemingly completing the picture.

The ad, which is a subtle overture to Saudi women, would have been unheard of a year ago. It represents huge change and opportunity in a country that has been extremely repressive toward women.
Car companies such as Jaguar, Ford and Nissan are looking to capitalize on a potential new market of women drivers after Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, announced that starting in June, women in the kingdom would be allowed to drive.
The 32-year-old prince wants to show his country is liberal, modern and open for business beyond the oil sector. Saudi Arabian women have embraced the move on driving, but hope it brings other, more substantial changes, too.
Saudi woman in car
Women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive starting in June. (Amer Hilabi/AFP/Getty Images)


'No more a passenger': Driving schools for women take off in Saudi Arabia

Holly Ellyatt wrote this piece for CNBC on March 7, 2018. The story is pasted in below and a link to the story is here.

A Saudi woman (front) receives a driving lesson from an Italian instructor in Jeddah on March 7, 2018.
A Saudi woman (front) receives a driving lesson from an Italian instructor in Jeddah on March 7, 2018.
Saudi Arabia's decision to overturn a ban on women driving could prove lucrative for international carmakers, with the likes of Ford launching driving schools for women ahead of the radical change in the law.
"I've always been a passenger in the car and I can't wait to get behind the wheel," said Shams Hakim, a female university student in Saudi Arabia. She's attending a driving school at Effat University in Jeddah.
"I'm excited, but I also have some apprehension about what is actually involved in driving," Hakim adds.
The student of Business Human Resources is one of 250 women who have signed up to carmaker Ford's Driving Skills for Life for Her (DSFL) program, essentially a hands-on driving school run by Ford that's based in the university. Hakim says the program has given her "the confidence and education I need for the journey that lies ahead to obtain my license."
Carmaker giant Ford has started a hands-on driving education course for women only, ahead of the lifting of the driving ban on women i the country. According to a royal decree, the ban has to be lifted before June 24 2018.
The overturning of the ban means that women will be allowed to drive in the conservative, religious country for the first time in decades. Hundreds of women have even signed up to become drivers for ride-hailing companies, like Careem.
Ford said more than 250 students joined the driving school program this week in the lead up to International Women's Day on Thursday. Previously, the law in Saudi Arabia had meant that Ford's driving school sessions were for men only.
"The DSFL for Her sessions have been tailor-made for Saudi women as they approach the day when they can legally drive on public roads," Ford said in a press release.
It said the lessons included learning about your vehicle — where students are taught the fundamentals of preparing to drive such as adjusting the seat, checking mirrors and correct hand position — things that drivers take for granted in many countries.
A Saudi woman poses for a photo with a certificate after completing Ford's driving course in Jeddah on March 7, 2018.
A Saudi woman poses for a photo with a certificate after completing Ford's driving course in Jeddah on March 7, 2018.
Safe braking and the dangers of driver distraction were also covered in the course. In Saudi Arabia, 7,500 road deaths in 2017 were attributed to the use of mobile phones while driving, the Saudi Gazette reported in early March.
The lifting of the driving ban on women is one of several societal reforms overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Along with overturning the driving ban, women are now allowed to attend sporting events in Saudi Arabia. A 35-year-old ban on cinemas has also been lifted as part of the crown prince's radical (for Saudi Arabia) reform drive.
Women are not formally banned from driving under Saudi law but it is illegal to grant them a driving license under the current system, effectively creating a ban. King Salman decreed in September 2017 that women were to be allowed to gain driver's licenses.
Although the majority of senior religious scholars approved the move, some traditionalists are not happy. One Saudi cleric was also suspended after he said women should not drive because their brains shrink to a quarter the size of a man's when they go shopping, according to Reuters.
Haifa Jamalallail, president of Effat University, said the reform was overdue: "The wheels of change are constantly moving, and finally Saudi Arabia has caught up with the rest of the world with regard to women driving. Statistics show that women are generally safer and more defensive drivers than men," he said.
Road safety is a key issue in a country where 9,000 people were killed in car accidents in 2016, according to Arab News.
Women in Saudi Arabia appear to be relishing the life-changing opportunity to drive with women's universities offering to open up driving schools, Reuters reported, and companies like Ford keen to attract a lucrative new customer base.
Ford said that women who are not able to participate in person will be able to view online videos featuring a female student learning the basics from a female instructor in Arabic with English subtitles. The carmaker said it also plans to expand the program across the Saudi Kingdom in the future.
Jim Vella, president of the Ford Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Ford Motor Company, was in Saudi Arabia for the launch of the driving school around International Women's Day.
"We are thrilled to be part of this historic milestone as we bring Ford Driving Skills for Life for Her to Saudi Arabia," he said. "This program is designed to help young women feel safe and confident behind the wheel for the first time, and with it, we look forward to welcoming a new generation of women to the driver's seat."
Holly Ellyatt

Monday, March 5, 2018

‘Oh My God’ Turns to ‘Yay Me’ as Saudi Women Practice Driving

Ben Hubbard wrote this piece in the March 5, 2018 New York Times about women preparing to drive in Saudi Arabia. Effat University hosted a driving skills course on its campus, put on by Ford. A link to the story is here,  and the story is pasted below. The photos in the original story are great, they were taken by Tasneem Alsultan.

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — “O.K. Come drive now,” said the trainer.
“Oh my God,” the architecture student replied.
She climbed into the driver’s seat, put on her seatbelt, found the pedals, released the hand brake and put the car into drive. Then she took a deep breath, eased her foot off the brake and began doing, for the first time, what women will soon be doing all over Saudi Arabia: driving.
“Is this O.K.?” the student, Rahaf Alzahrani, 21, asked nervously as she inched along.
“Yes. It’s O.K.,” the instructor said.
Three and a half months remain before the date when the rulers of this ultraconservative kingdom have promised to lift the longstanding ban on women driving, and many here are already planning for what is sure to be a major change in Saudi society.
Women’s universities have announced that they plan to open driving schools, and car companies have shifted their ads, seeking to profit from the anticipated flood of new drivers — and car buyers — in this country of 32 million.
Uber is planning to recruit women to train women who aspire to be Uber drivers, and some dealerships have already set aside shopping hours for women. Ford, Nissan, Jaguar and even Coca-Cola have sought to capitalize on the buzz around women sliding into the driver’s seat.

Saudi women are approaching the change with an often complicated mix of enthusiasm and apprehension, as was tangible on Monday on the campus of Effat University in this Red Sea port city, where a number of young women piloted cars for the first time.
The university may later open a driving school for women, administrators said, but it is waiting for the government to issue the proper regulations. So the course was a more of a workshop offered by the Ford Motor Company Fund that sought to improve drivers’ safety. Since Saudi Arabia does not yet issue licenses to women, the course was aimed at women who had no experience being in charge of cars.
About 15 female students gathered in a classroom for the start of one workshop. They all wore abayas, the baggy gowns Saudi women wear to hide their forms in public. Most had their hair covered and a few covered their faces, too. Some wore tennis shoes and jeans underneath and lugged backpack and handbags.
The workshop began with a brief talk about road safety, car accidents and the huge number of them caused by texting at the wheel. Then the women broke up for more hands-on experiences.

In an outdoor courtyard, they donned goggles meant to simulate impaired vision from medication, drowsiness or drunkenness, which is not usually a problem, since alcohol is banned in the kingdom. Then they had to pilot a small wheel on the end of a pole across a map on the ground while paying attention to streets, stop signs and pedestrians.
But the real action was in an enclosed parking lot nearby, where there were real cars.
Groups of women sat in the cars while instructors explained their features: the gear shift, the gas and brake pedals, the temperature gauge, the cruise-control buttons, the turn signals and windshield wipers. At one point, a student sitting in a driver’s seat sprayed the windshield, making all of the other women laugh.
Finally, the instructor told the woman to put her foot on the brake and push the ignition button. The car roared to life and a smile bloomed on her face.
“All right!” she said, and the other women clapped.
It is hard to overstate how much the right to drive will change the lives of Saudi women. Women were long kept out of public life in Saudi Arabia, segregated from men in most settings, limited to a small number of professions or encouraged to stay home, and forced to rely on private drivers or male relatives to pilot them around.
But much has changed for Saudi women in recent years as they have been allowed to work in new fields and appointed to high-profile positions, and have graduated in ever-increasing numbers from universities. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, has spoken of the importance of increasing women’s role in the work force as part of his effort to diversify the economy away from oil.

The women at the workshop all approved of having the right to drive, and some had already set their sights on specific cars. One wanted an Audi.
“It’s a strong car,” she said.
Another wanted a Mercedes, “like my dad.”
Yet another said she would send her Indian driver home and drive his car.

They said being able to drive would decrease their reliance on those who now have to ferry them around, while putting them in charge of their own schedules.
“I don’t want to drive just to drive,” said Rehab Alhuwaider, 21. “I want to be able to do my daily routine.”
She said she hated it when she wanted to go to the gym in the morning and had to wait for someone to drop her off. The best part of driving, she said, would be “feeling more freedom.”

But some were not sure they were ready to face Saudi Arabia’s often ferocious traffic, or male drivers who have no experience interacting with women on the roads.
Raneem Modaress, 22, said she had wanted to drive before a car she was riding in got hit a month ago, leaving her with bad bruises up and down her side.
“It was terrible,” she said.
Now she plans to wait to see how it goes for other women before getting her own license.
The workshop concluded with what remains a rare opportunity for women in Saudi Arabia: the chance to drive a car through a course of cones in a parking lot.
Before she got her shot behind the wheel, Ms. Alzahrani, the architecture student, said she had driven Jet Skis in the Red Sea and motorcycles in the desert, but never cars. The thought of doing so made her nervous.
“I don’t know where the brake is and where the gas is,” she said.
She started slowly, then rounded the first curve, then the second. She approached a stop sign and hit the brake too hard, causing the other passengers to jolt forward. She laughed nervously and then went forward again before reaching the end and stopping with a slightly lighter jolt.
“Praise God for your safety,” the instructor said.
“Yay me!” she said.
The drive had taken only a few minutes, but it had changed her outlook on the whole endeavor.
“It was so amazing. I loved it,” she said. “It felt good to be behind the wheel.”

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Princess Reema: driving is not the 'be all' of Saudi women's rights

This AFP story was printed in the National, on March 2, 2018. You can link to the story here and the text is below.

Princess Reema bint Bandar at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC. Ian Timberlake / AFP Photo
Princess Reema bint Bandar at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC. Ian Timberlake / AFP Photo
 Saudi official says 'quick wins' for women are just part of a bigger vision

Saudi Arabia is working to address deeper issues than the recent "quick wins" on the path to greater women's rights, one of the Kingdom's leading female officials said.
"These are things that are quick wins. We know we can do them - women in stadiums, women driving - that's great, but women driving is not the end all, be all of women's rights," Princess Reema bint Bandar told the Atlantic Council in Washington.
In 2016 the Princess was appointed Vice-President for Development and Planning at Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority, the first woman to serve in a senior post in the Authority, which is the equivalent of a government ministry.
As part of a wide-ranging social and economic reform, King Salman announced in September that Saudi women would be allowed to drive from June this year.
The Kingdom, the world's only country where women cannot get behind the wheel, then tackled the male bastion of football, letting women into stadiums to watch matches for the first time in January.

Princess Reema said deeper issues are still being worked on including "a woman feeling safe in her home" and having any career path open to her in a traditionally male-dominated society.
"Those are things that will be more dynamic in moving the conversation for women's rights than just getting her driving," she said.
"Domestic violence is so critical. I promise you we really are working on it."
The Sports Authority is trying to get more Saudis exercising as part of efforts to build a healthier population. Princess Reema said traditional clothing worn by Saudi women will be no hindrance to women's exercise.
She said she knows of three companies making abayas for running and two more that have robes designed for cycling.

"Innovation will come. It has to come," she said. "Guess what, I'm wearing trousers today."
The Kingdom sent four women as "wild cards" to the 2016 Olympics. Princess Reema said that she will be happy when one gets to a future Olympics "on her own merit ... however long it takes."

Friday, March 2, 2018

First female Saudi Ferrari owner joins Italians to celebrate women driving

 This story appeared in the English daily Arab News on 2/28/18. A link to the story is here,  and the story is pasted below. 

JEDDAH: Aseel Al-Hamad, the first Saudi woman board member at the Saudi Arabia motor federation and the first Saudi female to own a Ferrari, was a special guest at the Italian Culture Center’s event on Feb. 27 called “Saudi Women Can Drive.”
Diplomatic guests included Vincenzo Amendola, undersecretary of state of Italy, and Luca Ferrari, the Ambassador of Italy to Saudi Arabia in Riyadh.
Elisabetta Martini, the consul general of Italy in Jeddah, said: “The royal decree issued last September which has removed the ban on Saudi women to drive in their own country opens a huge market now for many companies.
“Mostly it was a dream that came true and tonight’s event is not about economy but about dreams. The two companies represented here, Ferrari and Maserati, are brands that have contributed the most in the creation of the Italian dream.”
Al-Hamad is an interior design engineer graduate and businesswomen who followed her dream about Ferrari cars. She decided to reward herself because of her successful business (a design company), and the reward was a roaring Ferrari car. She said how glad she was about the royal decree, which will have “a positive reflection for the country socially and economically.”
“I was so pleased by the decision, just like any other Saudi woman, and I was assured that my decision to buy the car of my dreams was the best decision to make. am so happy because I will drive soon in the Kingdom.”
Amendola told Arab News: “The reform decision helps use the energy of this country, especially of women in this young generation. This energy can help to achieve the reform that the government is presenting. The friendship between our countries is historical but now there are many projects that we are planning together.”
Another attendee said: “I am American by blood but Saudi at heart, and women being able to drive is absolutely superb. It rocks!”
Two Italian car brands presented a number of cars in the event, including Maserati. A short documentary was played about Maria Teresa de Filippis, an Italian who was the first woman to race in Formula One. She participated in five World Championship Grands Prix after May 1958, but scored no championship points. Though her Formula One career was brief, she won races in other series and is remembered as a pioneer in the sport.
Saudi women will be free to drive in the Kingdom by June 24.

Ford and Effat University Help Women Make History in Saudi Arabia with Driving Skills for Life for Her

Ford Motor Company and Effat University are teaming up to train women to drive when they are permitted to, starting on June 10, 2018. The press release is below.

Here is a youtube of a student from Effat University talking about the program and urging her fellow students to register.


  • Ford Driving Skills for Life for Her – the first event of its kind since the historical royal decree lifting the ban on women obtaining a driver’s license in Saudi Arabia last year – makes its global debut at Jeddah’s Effat University, March 5-8
  • Customized introductory program, led by certified trainers, will focus on helping women build confidence behind the wheel by instilling safe driving practices on a closed course
  • Since launching in the Middle East in 2013, more than 3,600 students have participated in Ford’s award-winning Driving Skills for Life program, with sessions in three different cities across Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates last year alone
DUBAI, UAE, Feb. 18, 2018 – Ford Motor Company is assisting Saudi Arabian women ahead of them gaining the power of mobility by hosting a special four-day Driving Skills for Life program with Effat University. The groundbreaking course – Driving Skills for Life for Her – follows the landmark decision by the Kingdom, as decreed by His Highness, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to lift the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia.
“Ford Motor Company was built on the belief that freedom of movement drives human progress, so we are honored to have the opportunity to support women in the Kingdom during such an extraordinary time, and to welcome them to the driver’s seat,” said Jim Vella, president, Ford Motor Company Fund. “Our Driving Skills for Life for Her program provides access to training and experiences that will help women feel safe and confident as they get behind the wheel.”
Based on Ford’s award-winning global safe driving initiatives, Driving Skills for Life has customized an introductory program that focuses on building women’s confidence behind the wheel, expanding their automotive knowledge, preparing them to take driving lessons, and instilling safe driving practices before they tackle public roads.
The first-ever Driving Skills for Life for Her introductory program anywhere in the world will have certified instructors providing training at Effat University’s Jeddah campus. Calling on her fellow students to partake, Shams Hakim, Business HR student at Effat, announced the program on YouTube today, which can be viewed here.
Scheduled March 5-8, the program will train more than 250 Effat University students, incorporating four modules of in-vehicle experiences – one on learning about the vehicle, another on distraction, one on impairment and another on dealing with braking. The sessions will be preceded by a briefing with the lead instructor.
Effat University is well known for its innovative education, driving women forward to take their rightful places in society and the workforce. We are proud to be able to partner with Ford to ensure that our students are also prepared to become responsible, safe drivers,” said Dr. Haifa Jamalallail, president of Effat University. “We believe in driving change, but driving safely, and this is exactly what the Safe Driving Skills for Life program is all about.”
Driving Skills for Life is an international initiative for road safety created by Ford Fund in cooperation with the Governors Highway Safety Association and a panel of safety experts. Ford’s signature program captures the interest of newly licensed drivers with free, hands-on ride-and-drive courses that pair them with professional instructors. It focuses on the issues and obstacles that cause crashes, including impaired and distracted driving.
Now in its 15th year, Ford Driving Skills for Life has provided free training to more than 1 million newly licensed drivers in 40 countries worldwide. In total, Ford has invested more than $40 million in Driving Skills for Life initiatives worldwide as part of its longstanding commitment to promoting safety on the road.
Since launching in the Middle East in 2013, more than 3,600 students have participated in Ford’s Driving Skills for Life program, with sessions in three cities across Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates last year alone.
This new installment of Driving Skills for Life for Her will be an ongoing program for women drivers in the Kingdom, with phase two launching later this year.

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan. The company designs, manufactures, markets and services a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs, electrified vehicles and Lincoln luxury vehicles, provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company and is pursuing leadership positions in electrification, autonomous vehicles and mobility solutions. Ford employs approximately 202,000 people worldwide. For more information regarding Ford, its products and Ford Motor Credit Company, please visit

Ford’s history in the Middle East goes back more than 60 years. The company’s local importer-dealers operate more than 155 facilities in the region and directly employ more than 7,000 people, the majority of whom are Arab Nationals. For more information on Ford Middle East, please visit

Ford Middle East is also a responsible corporate citizen with currently various CSR initiatives running in the region including the Ford Motor Company Conservation & Environmental Grants, Ford Warriors in Pink® breast cancer awareness campaign, Ford Driving Skills for Life for young drivers and the Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy education initiative for young entrepreneurs.

About Ford Motor Company Fund

Ford Motor Company Fund is the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company. Established in 1949, Ford Fund invests in transformational programs that advance innovation, empower people, promote social mobility and improve community prosperity. Ford Fund works with local and global partners to create opportunities in education, encourage safe driving, enlist employee volunteers and enrich community life. For more information, visit, or join us on Facebook @FordFund and Twitter @FordFund.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Ideal Driver Award to include women starting next year

The English language daily Saudi Gazette reported (on February 17, 2018) that starting in 2019, Saudi women drivers will be eligible to win a safe driving award with a 500,000 SR prize. You can link to the story here and read the text below.

Khalid Al-Balahdi
Okaz/Saudi Gazette

DAMMAM — The Eastern Province Traffic Safety Committee has announced that it will include women drivers in the annual Ideal Driver Award next year after making necessary amendment in the regulations for the prize.

Abdullah Al-Rajhi, secretary-general of the committee, said the next round of the award will be its fifth edition and will include women candidates for the first time.

“We will look into the award’s rules and regulations and amend them to allow the participation of women. One of the award’s regulations is to have a clean driving record free of any traffic violations for three years prior to the date of the award. This rule will have to be amended since women will start to drive in the Kingdom only this year,” said Al-Rajhi.

Saudi Aramco has nearly completed a driving school for women employees of the company and it has also cooperated with Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University to give technical support and consultancy for setting up their own driving school for women, Al-Rajhi said.

“Prizes worth up to half a million riyals are up for grabs by the winners of the Ideal Driver Award. Support from Emir of the Eastern Province Prince Saud Bin Naif, who is head of the Traffic Safety Committee, and his deputy Prince Ahmad Bin Fahd Bin Salman is the core reason behind the success of the committee. They both believe in the committee’s purpose and cause,” said Al-Rajhi.

He claimed that the committee was successful in bringing down the rate of accidents in the province by 41 percent since 2012.

“The death rate from road accidents in the Kingdom is currently a victim every hour. An average of 25 people die every day and over 9,000 people die every year due to road accidents. This is in addition to some 38,000 people who are severely injured each year. All of this is due to drivers and pedestrians violating traffic safety laws,” said Al-Rajhi.

He added victims of road accidents occupy 30 percent of hospital beds in the country and they cause an annual economic loss of SR27 billion in terms of the cost of treatment and missed days of work.

The Ideal Driver Award contains a number of categories.

“There is an award for the excellent private driver and an award for the excellent public driver. The award is granted to both the private and public sectors and also to school and university drivers," said Abdulhameed Al-Mujil, president of the Saudi Association for Traffic Safety.

He urged Saudi families to sign their drivers up for the award to encourage them to follow road safety regulations.

Friday, February 16, 2018

1,000 Saudi women have signed up as Careem drivers

In the Gulf region, an Uber-like company called Careem employs thousands of drivers. Here is a story by Harriet Pudney (posted 2/15/18) from Emirates Woman magazine about 1,000 Saudi women signing up to be drivers for Careem. A link to the story is here, and the story is below.

They’ll be hitting the road from June.

Dubai-based ride-sharing app Careem has opened up applications for women in Saudi Arabia, and 1,000 have already put their names forward.
Speaking to Thomson Reuters site Zawya, co-founder Magnus Olsson said Careem was looking to expand significantly in the country.
The Saudi government has ruled that any new drivers for apps like Careem must be nationals. Existing expat drivers are allowed to continue, Zawya reports.
 These changes come as part of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s ambitious post-oil economy plan which hopes to increase participation of women in the workforce and diversify the country’s industries.
“There is still so much room for growth in the Saudi market. Small parts of the population in Saudi are using services such as Careem, and, as economic activity increases, there will be more need to move around, whether for jobs or other private activities,” Olsson told the site.
In September, it was announced that the ban on women behind the wheel would end in June this year.
The initiative, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aims to make Saudi a more modern, tourist-friendly destination.
The crown prince is also behind an initiative to turn 200 kilometres of the country’s Red Sea coast into a series of luxury retreats.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Nissan Gives Saudi Women Driving Lessons After Country Lifts Ban on Female Drivers

This January 16, 2018 article from AdAge Magazine details a new Nissan campaign to encourage Saudi women to learn to drive. The video is in Arabic with English subtitles. A link to the story and video is here and the story is pasted below. The story is by Alexandra Jardine.

Nissan Middle East is marking the government of Saudi Arabia's recent decision to overturn the ban on women driving cars in its latest campaign in the region.
From June this year, women will be allowed to drive, but according to the documentary-style film from Nissan, many are hesitant because of prejudice against them and fear that their male relatives will disapprove.
The brand and agency TBWA/RAAD took a group of women and offered them a special driving lesson; unbeknownst to them, the instructors were men close to them such as their fathers, brothers and husbands. The video shows their surprise as they meet their relatives, and how their confidence grows as they their first lesson behind the wheel.
Nissan will be sharing the campaign with the hashtag #SheDrives in order to encourage women to apply for their licences.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Women-only Saudi university begins recruiting for driving school

On January 3, 2018, Gulf Business reported that driving instructors are being hired at Riyadh's all-women Princess Nourah University. You can read the story below, and link to it on-line here.
Note: in the story below there are several related links of interest.

Saudi Arabia’s Princess Nourah Bin Abdulrahman University has begun accepting applications for driving instructor positions after confirming plans to setup a school last year.
The university, which is claimed to be the largest institution of its kind for women globally, confirmed plans for the school days after Saudi monarch King Salman announced a decree to allow women to drive from June next year.
Read: Saudi university to set up driving school for women
The driving academy on the university campus will provide both theoretical and practical driving lessons.
General supervisor for media management, Amani Al-Hammad, told Arab News instructor applications are now being accepted through the university website.
Applicants must have a valid driver’s licence and a certified trainer’s permit and be either Saudi or a resident, suggesting the majority will be male.
However, the process is also open to women in Riyadh who have a valid driver’s licence obtained abroad.
Demand for driving lessons is expected to significantly increase this year as women prepare to take to the roads.
Read: Saudi driving schools to accept women from March
Driving schools are expected to begin accepting women from March but many female citizens and residents have already travelled abroad to obtain international licences that can be converted for local use after the June 24 deadline.
Read: Saudi women have spent $3.1m to obtain driving licences abroad
Under recent rule changes from Saudi’s Directorate General of Traffic, drivers must take 30 to 120 hours of lessons before taking a test to obtain a licence.
A survey released in October indicated more than four fifths of women in the kingdom plan to get behind the wheel when the ban is lifted.
Read: Study reveals 82% of Saudi women plan to drive

First Saudi Woman to Run a Gas Station

The Saudi Gazette/Okaz published this story about the first Saudi gas station to be run by a woman, in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province. (January 8, 2018)

By Abdulaziz Al-Rubaie

Okaz/Saudi Gazette

DAMMAM — A Saudi woman is running a gas station making her the first woman to do so in a field that is usually dominated by men.

Mervat Bukhari said she has her office by a gas station where she manages the workers and ensures that all safety procedures are taken.

“My station is on the highway in the Eastern Province. Soon women will start driving and I aim to empower and support women through my business. I plan to have a special lane for women for them to be comfortable,” said Bukhari.

She added that her company does only manage a gas station but also a resort and other facilities.

“I work as the head of the regional media department in an investment group. The group invests in the gas stations. They needed a woman to supervise the service chamber of the gas station. The gas station I am running has a five stars rating. So the group needed someone with experience to run it,” said Bukhari.

She said she has been diligent at supervising the work flow of the station and other facilities such as sports halls and hotel services offices.

“We plan to have women feeling safe at gas stations. We will also build a nearby shopping center to employ more women and provide better services for women as well. Being the first Saudi woman to occupy such a position is definitely an honor and a responsibility that I take seriously,” said Bukhari.

10,000 women to drive taxis in Saudi Arabia

This article (one of many covering this story) is from the Khaleej Times of January 12, 2018. You can link to the story here and the story is pasted in below. I believe it originated with AFP.

All drivers employed by the two firms are male -- mostly Saudi nationals driving their privately-owned vehicles.

Ride hailing applications in Saudi Arabia are preparing to hire Saudi female chauffeurs, months ahead of lifting a ban that prevents women from driving or owning driving licenses in the country, a CNN report said.
The ride hailing applications Uber and Careem recruited their first female drivers in Saudi Arabia, after the Kingdom announced plans to lift the ban on women driving by June 2018.
Female customers currently represent 80 per cent of Uber's Saudi rider base and 70 per cent of business for its Dubai-based counterpart Careem, according to statistics shared with CNN by both companies.
The apps are a lifeline to women with no independent way to get around the Kingdom.
All drivers employed by the two firms are male -- mostly Saudi nationals driving their privately-owned vehicles.
Following the ground-breaking royal decree that announced plans to lift the ban on women driving in September 2017, both companies have been preparing to hire their first female drivers.