Driving licenses were issued to 10 women in Saudi Arabia on Monday just weeks before the ban on female drivers is to be lifted on June 24.
“The issuance of the licences means that for the first time in more than 50 years, women will be able to drive legally in the kingdom,” said a statement by the Ministry of Information.
“Expectations are that next week an additional 2,000 women will join the ranks of licenced drivers in the kingdom.”
The 10 women traded in their foreign driving licenses for Saudi ones at different departments of traffic in the capital, Riyadh, and other cities.
“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 was unbelievable for me,” Rema Jawdat, a risk analyst at the Ministry of Economy and Planning, was quoted as saying.
“Driving, to me, represents having a choice; the choice of independent movement, now we have that option and that's important.”
The decision to allow women to drive is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Vision 2030 of Saudi Arabia.
A video shared on Twitter by user @saudalzmanan showed the moment one of the first women receive her licence from officials.
“Thousands of congratulations to the daughters of the homeland, being issued the first licence in Saudi Arabia,” the tweet read.
Tahani Aldosemani, assistant professor at Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University in Al Kharj — about 77 kilometres south of Riyadh — exchanged her US-issued driving license for a Saudi one on Monday.
“I lived in the United States while earning my PhD for four years, traveling and moving between states without any problem or violation of law,” she said.
“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 Albuti, an executive director at Ernst & Young, said that allowing women to drive in the kingdom was a step forward.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
The General Department of Traffic announced last month that all preparations for women in Saudi Arabia to start driving have been completed.