Tahani Al Dosemani, Assistant Professor at Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University in Al Kharj, with her new driving license, at the General Department of Traffic in the capital, Riyadh, on June 4, 2018. Image Credit: AP

Manama: Hundreds of Saudi and foreign women have been granted local driving licences since Tuesday, the General Directorate for Traffic has said.

The licence will allow the women to drive in the kingdom starting June 24 as per the royal orders issued in September that called for allowing women to drive for the first time.

Traffic officials said 22 centres had been set up across the kingdom to convert foreign licences while four driving schools have been issuing Saudi licences to candidates who passed the test.

The Traffic General Directorate posted a short video that showed the large number of women seeking to be among the first to get their driving licences.

Overjoyed

On Monday (June 4) 10 women who swapped their foreign driving licences for Saudi ones at the General Department of Traffic in Riyadh and other cities said they were overjoyed at being part of the historic moment and fully understood its significance.

“I have 12 years of driving experience in Lebanon, Switzerland, and the United States. It’s a dream come true that I am about to drive in the kingdom. The moment I got the news about driving, it was unbelievable for me,” Rema Jawdat, a risk analyst at the Ministry of Economy and Planning was quoted by the Centre for International Communication (CIC) as saying.

“Driving, to me, represents having a choice, the choice of independent movement, now we have that option and that’s important.”

Tahani Al Dosemani, who works at Prince Sattam Bin Abdul Aziz University in Al Kharj, about 77km south of Riyadh, swapped her US-issued driving licence for a Saudi one.

“I lived in the United States while earning my PhD for four years, travelling and moving between states without any problem or violation of law,” Tahani said.

Sense of responsibility

“Driving for women is not just about driving a car; it enhances strength of character, self-confidence, and decision-making skills. It also instills a sense of responsibility for yourself, your vehicle, the road, and the people around you, not to mention the economic and social dimensions of driving.”

Esraa Al Butti, an Executive Director at Ernst & Young, was also beaming as she brandished her brand new Saudi driving licence: “I’m proud of the news about driving. It’s a step forward, and it will add a lot to the lives of women. As a working woman, I need to move around a lot at different times of the day, and it is hard to have a driver dedicated to me 24 hours a day. I would say that even when a driver is available, there will still be difficulties, so what would women who live through harder circumstances than me say,” she said.

Saudi authorities said they used the period since the announcement in September to prepare the logistics to ensure a smooth implementation of the historic decision.

Several driving schools have been set up and awareness campaigns launched throughout the kingdom.

On the legal front, a tough anti-harassment draft law has been passed by the Shura Council which was endorsed last week by the cabinet to boost the safety of women drivers.