Congratulations to the citizens of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where women have achieved the freedom to drive this week! Change happens very slowly and then all of a sudden.
Manal Al-Sharif driving on the streets of Saudi Arabia
Manal Al-Sharif was the very public face of the #Women2Drive campaign in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Her bold videos and calls for women to be able to drive were not appreciated when they happened. It was the height of the Arab Spring and Saudi Arabia didn’t need the negative publicity of female dissent. ‘Don’t you love the King?’ Saudis asked her. ‘Why do you want to give the King these headaches?’
Manal Al-Sharif had learned to drive in her years overseas — indeed, she tried to do one very daring thing every year on her birthday. One year it was skydiving.
As the first woman cyber security expert at the oil exploration company Aramco, she was able to drive on the Aramco compound where the religious police and municipal police didn’t patrol. Apparently, there were other authorities that could come on the compound. The first sentence in her memoir about her #Women2Drive campaign is: ‘The secret police knocked on my door at 2 a.m.’ And so begins the tale of this human rights campaign.
It’s difficult to change one’s society, especially for women in a society that is traditionally patriarchal. For her efforts, Manal Al-Sharif was awarded the inaugural Vaclav Havel Award for Creative Dissent. She was presented the award at the Oslo Freedom Forum, affectionately known as the ‘Davos for Dissidents’ in 2012.
Manal Al-Sharif at the Oslo Freedom Forum in 2012
Here is success in the headlines of the Arab News:
At a time, when feminist groups are being labeled ‘extremist’ in countries like Russia, a feminist success via a translated memoir may be just the uplifting read for a book club that wants to be inspired.
Title: ‘Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening’
Author: Manal Al-Sharif
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: June 17, 2017
Also available in other formats such as audio book or e-book.
Blog post written by Karen Van Drie
Manal Al-Sharif is a woman’s rights activist from the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia. She started a campaign to get women the right to drive in 2011. She graduated from King Abdulaziz University with a Bachelor of Science in computing and a Cisco Career Certification. Until May 2012, she worked as an Information Security Consultant for Saudi Aramco, the Saudi national oil company. She is currently residing in Australia, with her husband, a Brazilian. She has two sons. Foreign Policy magazine named al-Sharif one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2011. Time magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2012.
Karen Van Drie is an American expat librarian working in Istanbul, Turkey. She is on Twitter at @worldlibraries. She also hosts a bilingual celebration of reading culture at @EnSonNeOkudun. In her free time, Karen writes her own blog called ‘Empty Nest Expat.’