On 24 June Grazia witnessed, along with the rest of the world, history for the women of Saudi Arabia. On that day, ladies obtained legal licenses enabling them to drive independently – and many residents took to the streets behind the wheel for the first time.
While the celebrations were taking place, Grazia spoke with Amal Farhat from the country's capital, Riyadh. She expressed her excitement at having the ban lifted, saying, “Going for a drive was very nice. I wanted to wave at everybody. I was like, ‘Hey, look at me, I’m driving!’” She added, “Being able to drive is a strange feeling, too.”
For Amal, being in the driving seat has extra importance, because it’s now her career. She’s started training with riding-hailing app Careem as the company prepares to take on 100 female drivers now the ban has been abolished.
So, why did Amal want a career as a driver? “The first time I saw the ad, it triggered a very deep and long-lost memory I had,” Amal explains. “When I was a child, I saw a movie about a girl who was given a taxi by her father, as he was retiring from being a taxi driver. Society around her said, “No, you can’t do that,” but she insisted, saying, “Why not? It’s an honest job.”
“I remember thinking how amazing it would be to do this when I grow up," she continues. "I thought, 'I have to do this and be a role model, and show Saudi men that women can do this.'”
Alwaleed Philanthropies has joined forces with the Middle Eastern app to donate cars for newly trained women to drive - and women have already began their shifts in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.
Grazia wants to know what the reaction has been from fellow Saudi men and women regarding the new law. "Everybody is happy about it," Amal says. "My mum is 70 years old and on 24 June she quietly went for a drive by herself. She snuck out, drove around the neighbourhood, and sent me a picture."
Amal means 'hope' in Arabic, which is quite convenient given the significance of the week. And with this in mind, what does Amal hope for women in the future? "There’s so much. Women still have a long way to go, but I hope things are going to keep on getting better and better. I’d like to see more opportunities for women. It would be awesome to have 1000 female Careem drivers by the end of the year."
It really would be.
Photos: iStock and supplied