“This isn’t an anomaly… this is our future state.”
After months of discussion and speculation, Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving ended at midnight on June 24.
More than 120,000 women have already applied for their licences, and now, Saudi Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud has spoken about what the change means for her country.
In an interview with CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour, Princess Reema said the end of the ban was a watershed moment in Saudi history.
“Obviously we would have liked to have seen sooner but the fact that we’re doing it today for me is wonderful because… there are so many things that we as women, as the community would like to focus on,” she said.
“[Now that we] no longer have to talk about women’s driving and to be able to be active participants, it’s a relief and now honestly the onus is on us to take the next step forward in the growth of the inclusion of women in our community.”
Women taking to the roads wasn’t an isolated change in the kingdom, Princess Reema told CNN.
“We’re taking control but we’re taking control collectively, this isn’t a singular activity this isn’t an anomaly, this is our current state and this is our future state. This isn’t something you go back from.”
The princess also told Amanpour that she saw addressing the country’s male guardianship laws as a critical concern — one she discusses daily.
“This is a topic of conversation and I can tell you as a divorced mother of two, this is urgent…Is it going to happen today? I couldn’t tell you. Would I like to see it in the near future?” Princess Reema said.
“Absolutely, and as a woman in government my role is actually to keep highlight the issues that will keep pushing women forward holistically not just as an elite community or as a small community — it’s for a national interest.”
The driving reform comes as part of the kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030, a post-oil economy plan under which the government aims to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.
(And now that women won’t need to hire male drivers to transport them to work, this goal looks even more feasible).
King Salman’s decree is just the latest in Saudi’s changing shift in women’s opportunities in recent times.
This year, more Saudi females have been appointed to top jobs, a royal directive allowed women to use certain government services without a male guardian’s consent, and recent approval was issued for the go-ahead of women’s gyms.
Images: Getty, CNN