Nine months ago, the Saudi ruler announced that he would grant women the legal right to drive. One of the greatest prohibitions in the monarchy came to an end when the decades-old ban on women driving was finally lifted last Sunday.
The Guardian described the momentous occasion in an article, “As the clock ticked past midnight on Saturday, a group of women who had been granted licenses started their engines, some with fathers or brothers alongside, and others in new cars bought for the occasion. Several women shouted with delight. Others cried, and many took videos of their first foray at the wheel.”
The move will liberate women from the need of hiring male drivers to travel to around, thus encouraging more female to join the workforce. Lifting the driving ban is especially meaningful to female racing driver Aseel Al Hamad, the first female board member of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, who has never driven a track in her home country before. She celebrated the historic moment with a lap of honour in a Jaguar F-TYPE.
Aseel, who also serves as the Saudi Arabian representative at Women in Motorsport Commission for Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), has joined Jaguar in a call for June 24 to be known as World Driving Day – a day when finally, the whole world can enjoy the thrill of being behind the wheel.
“Having loved cars since I was a child, today is highly emotional for me. This is the best driving moment of my life. What better way to kick off World Driving Day than a lap of honour in my home country in a Jaguar F-TYPE – the ultimate car to roar around the track. I hope people around the world will share our joy today by sharing their most memorable driving story using #worlddrivingday.”
As part of Jaguar’s ongoing work with over 40 universities and academic institutions globally on future mobility solutions, the company will be partnering with universities in Saudi Arabia to join this global network. The partnership will tap into the brightest young minds in Saudi Arabia to shape the company’s future innovations as it moves to ACES (an Autonomous, Connected, Electrified and Shared future).
The conservatives in Saudi Arabia has long opposed the idea of women driving as it would lead to sin and expose them to harassment. Women who previously drove in Riyadh for example, lost their jobs and were barred from travelling abroad. Although an overwhelming number of women do not have driving licenses, more are expected to sign up for driving courses in the near future.