It has been just three days since Saudi Arabia officially ended the decades-old ban on women getting behind the wheel, and the Kingdom is still driving headlines around the world. Now, HRH Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud has weighed in on the changes taking place in the nation, revealing that letting women take to the roads “isn’t something you go back from.”
The Saudi royal, who is the executive vice-president of development and planning at the Kingdom’s Sport Authority, this week sat down for an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, where she opened up about women’s rights in her home country. HRH admitted that while she would have loved to have seen such reforms occur sooner, these “monumental shifts” are still “wonderful.” “There are so many things that we as women… would like to focus on that to no longer have to talk about women’s driving and to be able to be active participants, it’s a relief,” the royal told the broadcaster. “Now, honestly, the onus is on us to take the next step forward in the growth of the inclusion of women in our community.”
Saudi Princess agrees more needs to be done to end 'guardianships' but says women being allowed to drive is more than a tip of the iceberg: "It's job creation, it's allowing a woman to behave as a professional… She can operate independently." https://t.co/Ue6IEW3RR1 pic.twitter.com/LViFwkMHyL
— CNN International (@cnni) June 25, 2018
The next step, many activists have suggested, could be altering Saudi’s male guardianship law, which requires women to gain permission from a male relative – typically a father, husband, brother, or son – for many critical steps, such as gaining a passport or traveling overseas. HRH Princess Reema revealed to Amanpour that the law is something the Kingdom’s Shura Council is already looking at, adding that it’s a “critical conversation to have.”. “I can tell you, as a divorced mother of two, this is urgent,” said the royal. “Is it going to happen today? I couldn’t tell you. Would I like to see it in the near future? Absolutely, and as a woman in government my role is actually to keep highlighting the issues that will keep pushing women forward.”
Reforms such as the lifting of the driving ban is one of a sweeping raft of social and economic changes made as part of Vision 2030, a post-oil blueprint for Saudi helmed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The plan will allow Saudi Arabia to move towards a more modernized, tourist-friendly future, with aims such as increasing the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 22% to 30%. As of this year, females have also been allowed to attend sporting matches in select stadiums, and just last month Saudi Arabia passed a law to criminalize sexual harassment.
Princess Reema, the daughter of former US ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, paid tribute to the 32-year-old Crown Prince, telling CNN: “He will give the directive ‘go do’. He will say if the numbers make sense and the plans make sense, go do it.” The royal, who last year became the first woman to lead a federation in Saudi Arabia, added that shaking up the Kingdom’s laws is “for the national interest.” “Everyone is having this conversation, the women in government are having the conversation. The timeline of this change is not what I’m in control of, but the dialogue and the narrative is there. 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.”