Waiting for June 2018

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Hussam Al-Mayman

After the monumental decision to allow women to drive, my debates with many non-Saudi peers have become a lot easier.

For years, I have reminded everyone that there was not a law that forbade women to drive, even though women where not able to obtain a driving license in the Kingdom. From my prospective and from that of many within the decision-making chain in Saudi Arabia, it was a matter of satisfying the culture and society of the Kingdom, which has nothing to do with judiciary law.

As for me personally I was never against women obtaining a driving license but did not know how society would view it, even though, ironically enough, small villages nested on the outskirts of the Kingdom’s vibrant cities have had women driving for decades without any problems. Of course, these women lived in villages where traffic laws were practiced loosely and where their men showed more of a progressive and broadminded outlook than some of their counterparts living in the nation’s metropolitan cities.

The decision to allow women to drive has many positive benefits; allow me to list just a few.

The household effect

For many years we have had to depend on drivers to undertake the main errands for our households, such as driving our wives, mothers, daughters and sisters to work, adding a plethora of expenses, such as visa fees, housing, food and salaries. When women begin to drive, this will save numerous households in the Saudi Arabia a lot with regard to monthly expenses, which is crucial considering the changing financial dynamics in the Kingdom.

Less road congestion

We are a country where everyone seems to own a car. Whatever the age or income bracket, it seems that everyone can get behind the wheel. Having women drive will bring us closer to the carpool culture practiced in the United States which has developed to such a degree that in many US cities, carpoolers have their own lanes, which I personally observe with envy as I am stuck in heavy traffic in Houston or when I am doing my morning commute to work.

Diversification in opportunities

It has been announced that women will be able to obtain licenses to drive motorcycles and trucks as well as cars. This will create new employment opportunities for women in various sectors. It will enable women to work with the traffic police, as they will be assigned to traffic checkpoints, and give them an opportunity to contribute to the transportation and land shipping sectors, in which most jobs are currently done by expat workers.

I won’t be the least popular person in the room anymore

I have spoken at many events to diplomats and expats residing in the Kingdom about the local media industry, and was lauded with regard to my outlook on Saudi media. However, when the topic of women driving came up, I quickly turned out to be the most unpopular person at these functions because I always stood my ground and wanted to clear up any misconceptions about the written law.

I stated that women were not banned from driving and that the challenge was to allow the culture and society to embrace the concept of women behind the wheel. Of course, a lot of people did not share my point of view. So, clearly I am delighted that this will no longer be the case come June 2018.

Therefore, in conclusion, having a feminine touch embrace our roads will be good in many ways including the fact that it will stop ruining my future social networking.

Hussam Al-Mayman


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