RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, May 10, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- On September 26, 2017, Saudi Arabia lifted the country's longstanding prohibition on women motorists that had been in place since 1990. The royal decree, which will not only give women the right to mobility but will also reduce unemployment rates in the country, is set to take effect by June of this year.
This landmark decision is seen as part of ambitious reforms under the Kingdom's Vision 2030, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Vision 2030, which is focused on diversifying Saudi Arabia's economy and steering it away from its dependence on oil revenues, stands on a number of pillars including youth empowerment, social organization, and women's empowerment.
AboutHer.com, an online lifestyle portal dedicated to women living in the Arab region, has been documenting the progress and preparations of Saudi women over the last few months as the official day to take to the road approaches.
In October, the portal reported that rescinding the decades-old ban will essentially open the Kingdom's auto market to about half of its over 30 million population, giving the sector a significant boost, as well as reducing the need for ride-hailing apps such as Dubai-based Careem and American-based Uber.
On the other hand, these ride-sharing apps are also set to benefit from the new decree in a different way – by recruiting a new pool of female drivers for its car-hire service, for instance. Uber has already launched a "female partner support center" to enable women to join the company, while Careem launched a series of 90-minute sessions in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Al Khobar, targeting Saudi women with valid driving licenses acquired while abroad. Those who complete the training sessions receive a certificate that acts as a guarantee that they have officially joined Careem's team.
Car manufacturers are also expecting to benefit from the increased mobility of Saudi women. Last year, Toyota began looking into the feasibility of local production, while Nissan Motor Co. and Hyundai have been studying the possibility of opening plants in the Kingdom.
AboutHer.com has also reported on the various preparations being taken by Kingdom, including the setting up of driving schools and courses across Saudi Arabia.
The General Department of Traffic and King Abdul Aziz University (KAU) announced that a women-only driving school would be established in Jeddah by June, and Princess Nourah University, the world's largest female-only university, announced its plans to set up a driving school for women, hailed as a first for the Kingdom. Earlier this year, the university began calling for applications for women driving instructors, inviting both Saudi nationals and legal foreigners to apply.
In addition, an official announcement by the country's Directorate General of Traffic, Mohammed Al-Bassami, was made last November outlining the new steps that women need to take to obtain licenses before the decree comes into force.
As the June deadline approaches, women in Saudi Arabia continue to experience greater social and economic freedoms – as well as improved rights – set in motion by a wave of reforms being spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.