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Saudi Arabia’s First Female Careem Drivers Hit the Road

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Image: CNI

Following a historic royal decree that was issued by King Salman last September, women in Saudi Arabia are officially allowed to drive a car after the decades-long ban on women drivers was lifted on June 24. The reform was part of Vision 2030, a post-oil blueprint for Saudi helmed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman that aims to, among diversifying the Kingdom’s economy away from oil, increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 22% to 30%. In an effort to help, ride service platforms Uber and Careem have taken it upon themselves to start hiring female drivers.

Since the Saudi government announced the lifting of the ban last year, more than 2,000 women applied to Careem, the Middle East‘s first ride-hailing platform. Among them is Enaam Gazi Al-Aswad, who was selected to be the first “captinah” (the female version of “captain”, as the company calls its drivers to help overcome the stigma attached to being a driver), and a 45-year-old mother of two, Ammal Farhat. “So far, I’ve only had positive experiences,” Farhat said, speaking to the Wall Street Journal. Farhat, who got her license while studying in California, reveals that she was interested in applying for the job because she wanted to “challenge social stigma” and “help women with their commute”.

If you order a ride-hailing service in any part of the world, the driver will almost always be a male. Careem and Uber are hoping to change that in Saudi Arabia, as many females in the Kingdom are more comfortable riding with another woman. It’s a strategic move, considering that women make up over half of Careem’s clientele in Saudi Arabia. According to Hisham Lary, Careem’s team manager in Jeddah, the company is aiming to have 20,000 captinahs across the Middle East by 2020.

In another series of firsts for Saudi women, they can now become notaries. The Ministry of Justice has granted 12 women in the kingdom “verification” licenses, meaning they can now officially serve the public as a witness to the signing of important documents and attest the identities of the persons signing it.

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