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Is Uber Really The Best Option for Saudi Women?

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Uber LogoI think all of us right now can agree that Uber is a bit of a dumpster fire right now, thanks to allegations that it stole autonomous driving technology from Google, sexism is rampant in its offices, and it offers competitive prices to the detriment of its drivers. However, it is also true that some people that use Uber’s services might have a more difficult time getting around if it was not for the readily available cars on the street. That could not be more true for the women in Saudi Arabia.

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Saudi Arabia is the only country that does not allow women to drive or obtain licenses at all. Saudi women also need the permission of designated male guardians, which are often their husbands, fathers, or brothers, to work outside of the home, lease an apartment, travel, or complete any number of tasks those of us in the western world take for granted. Before Uber, families had to rearrange their lives to drive women places they need to be or take on the great expense of hiring and housing a driver to take a woman from place to place. Taxis are notoriously unsafe, Saudi Arabia does not have sidewalks or other pedestrian amenities, and the strict separation of the sexes means that women cannot take public transportation, so the options were extremely limited.

Uber came to Saudi Arabia in June of 2016 thanks to an investment from the Saudi Arabian government. Over 80% of Uber users in the country are women, and the app allows those who can’t afford drivers to get around cities much easier and gain some form of independence. The tech company also points out that it is collaborating with the Saudi government to add 1.3 million additional women to the country’s workforce.

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All of this sounds great, but activists still point out that Uber is not exactly an affordable way to get around. One source told Quartz that she had to use half of her paycheck just to commute to work with Uber. The app still forces women to rely on men for transportation in every circumstance, even in an emergency when waiting for a driver could be the difference between life and death. Having Uber in Saudi Arabia seems more like a band-aid over a very large problem instead of a permanent solution. As long as women cannot drive and are not in control of their own transportation, they will always be second class citizens compared to men.

News Source: Quartz