Female Taxi Drivers Take to the Road in Saudi Arabia
While we all want to believe that the Saudi Arabian government allowed women to drive because it realized it was wrong to deny them the right, it’s pretty common knowledge that it was motivated by economic pressure. Giving women driver’s licenses not only makes them look more progressive to trade partners, but it also opens up the door for increased car sales and fiscal opportunities. The first wave of growth started at midnight on Sunday, when the first female taxi drivers turned on their meters and ride-sharing apps.
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Time took the opportunity to ride along with one of these pioneering women on Sunday, hopping in the cab of Ammal Farahat for a tour of the Saudi capital of Riyadh. She is a 45-year-old mother driving with the Middle Eastern ride-hailing app Careem. The reporter remarked that the roads were crazy, with a fair amount of honking and a truck coming out of a side street without stopping, but that is a normal day on the roads in the busy capital. When asked how she felt driving, she said that she was caught between wanting to wave at everyone she saw to show her excitement and not drawing attention to herself.
Another taxi driver to take to the roads early on Sunday was Ohoud al Arifi, Uber’s marketing manager in Saudi Arabia and the first woman to register to drive for the app in the country. She reported that her first fare was a woman who seemed very excited to be in the car with another woman. She reportedly sat in the front seat with al Arifi to chat about driving and how she could drive for Uber herself.
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This is all very encouraging, but as outsiders we can’t forget that, regardless of their status as drivers, women and men are still separate in Saudi society. Many ride sharing apps don’t allow for ride hailers to pick their driver, but Uber at least announced it was working on a way for female drivers to say they only want women in their car to feel safer.
We’re excited to see what other ways women in Saudi Arabia use their new freedom of mobility to grow and excel.
News Source: Time