By Sana Elouazi
By Sana Elouazi
Rabat – The doors have opened on the world’s first car showroom exclusively for women in Saudi Arabia.
The showroom is located in Jeddah, but more outlets are expected to open soon. The historic opening comes only a few months after a Royal Decree lifting on the ban on women driving in the Kingdom and six months before they will actually be able to climb behind the wheel. An all-female salesforce will help the new clients
The Royal Decree was issued in September 2016 lifting the ban on women driving in the KSA. Three months later, it was confirmed that women will be able to drive motorbikes, vans and trucks eventually. The move is part of a vast programme of reform which is being masterminded by the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. His Vision 2030 is pushing through a huge programme of social and economic reforms to KSA which is largely welcomed both at home and abroad – but is also being met by some discontent in ultra-conservative circles.
The ban, which has been in place for decades, had become the source of much national and international controversy. Women in the KSA have protested against it for years and many had taken to the streets and even been imprisoned for defying the sexist policy.
The lifting of the ban, like all the reforms being made by the Crown Prince, has not been met with universal support in KSA. Sheikh Saad Al Hijiri sparked outrage when he said that women should not be allowed to drive because their brains were smaller than men’s.
In Saudi Arabia, the unemployment rate is very high among women due to their total dependence on male drivers. By allowing millions of new motorists to take the wheels, Riyadh’s decision could have a significant impact on the Saudi economy, aiming at reducing the country’s dependence on oil.
Despite lifting the gender-based road restrictions, Saudi Arabia continues to have one of the most discriminatory laws against women, who are still severely restricted and must live under the supervision of a male guardian in their families in order to study, travel. or even to receive hospital treatment.