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EXCLUSIVE: “Now, I have a choice.” One Saudi woman talks driving

The moment that Saudi women have been waiting for has finally come: As of today, Sunday, June 24, they are able to drive.

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AMEinfo speaks to Hana Al-Syead, Founder and CEO of Saudi-based Wujud, a startup focused on the economic integration of women, about today’s historic move.

As Saudi women begin to drive, how do you deem this development and how does it make you feel?

It is an exciting and proud development indeed, and it does feel good. It fulfills the element of choice – the choice of commuting without depending on a driver.

Will this decision drive more women to opt for jobs in Saudi Arabia?

I don’t think it will directly translate into that. Women currently working at managerial or higher posts are already capable of hiring drivers, so the freedom of driving doesn’t affect their daily work routine. As for factory and retail workers, for example, transportation has always been provided by their organizations.

However, I do see how the choice to drive impacts us socially, where women are no longer dependent on the male members of the family or obliged to incur the additional cost of a driver.

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What other changes do you see coming along with this development?

We can also look at this development from an infrastructure perspective. Women in Saudi are new to traffic rules, parking challenges and other driving-related regulations including maintenance and on-the-road services. I see it as a responsibility as well as an opportunity for us as a society to learn and apply the rules and expect enhanced service standards.

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What positive social or economic implications can be associated with this later on?

I hope this will encourage more women living in suburban areas to take up jobs in bigger cities within the Kingdom, as the commute will be easy and in control for them. So we are talking about women who might not have thought of having a job, because job opportunities were far in the city. This can be one huge economic benefit for the country, and more companies should now be thinking of setting up offices in suburban areas.

Will you be opting for a driving license?

I already have a driving license issued by a GCC country and have opted to get my Saudi license, though I can legally drive with my current license. I like the idea of being able to commute on my own, when I choose to. As I said, it gives a feeling of excitement and sense of empowerment through choice.

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