10 Saudi women get driving licenses, and the Internet is celebrating

A Saudi woman uses her smartphone as she checks a car at a showroom in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

Saudi Arabia has issued its first set of driving licenses to women in the lead up to the abolition of the world’s only ban on women driving. The reaction on the Internet was instantaneous, with congratulatory messages, viral videos and news posts gushing forth.

The women who received driving licenses already held international licenses, but they had to take a short driving test and an eye examination before getting their licences from the General Directorate of Traffic in Riyadh.

A video showing a woman receiving her licence is doing its rounds on YouTube and Twitter.

“Ten Saudi women made history on Monday when they were issued driving licences,” the information ministry’s Centre for International Communication (CIC) said. “Expectations are that next week an additional 2,000 women will join the ranks of licensed drivers in the kingdom.”

“It’s a dream come true that I am about to drive in the kingdom,” the CIC quoted Rema Jawdat, one of the women to receive a licence, as saying. 

Saudi women have good cause for celebration, for June 24 signals an end to a hard-fought battle. They have called for this change for decades, and a few of them were even arrested for defying the ban, but a royal decree issued in September 2017 announced the end of a decades-long ban on women driving.

The trigger for ending the driving ban was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reform programme, named Vision 2030, which envisages the end of the kingdom’s dependence on oil as well as a greater role for women in Saudi society. Ending the driving ban is expected to usher in economic benefits as well, for more women are expected to join the workforce as a result. 

(Editing by Seban Scaria seban.scaria@thomsonreuters.com)

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