Saudi fashion designer puts local women in the driving seat

The video features Saudi entrepreneur Bayan Linjawi, co-founder of Blossom MENA, an online platform that promotes technology entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia.
Updated 20 June 2018
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Saudi fashion designer puts local women in the driving seat

JEDDAH: A leading Saudi fashion designer has released a short film celebrating the changing role of women in the Kingdom.
The film, entitled “sa’aqood,” or Arabic for “I will drive,” was produced by Hatem Al-Akeel, founder and creative director of the Toby label. It highlights women’s ability to drive and lead, both physically and metaphorically.
Al-Akeel has been showing support for women’s empowerment through his innovative designs for some time.
“The driving concept is very symbolic,” he said.
“Seeing a woman drive shows how we’re heading toward a more progressive and moderate Saudi Arabia. Women now are more empowered and are moving forward with respect to the culture and traditions.
“My whole ethos has been to show the tremendous potential and capabilities of Saudi Arabia. The video’s message is to empower women and also show the levels of excellence, luxury and sophistication Saudi women can strive for,” he said.
The video features Saudi entrepreneur Bayan Linjawi, co-founder of Blossom MENA, an online platform that promotes technology entrepreneurship in the Kingdom.
“It’s not about driving a car, it’s about having the choice as a woman to participate in social, economic and political activities. It’s steering one’s life,” said Linjawi.
The video sends a message that women are ready to take on leadership roles and tackle any challenge.
“I am a firm believer in creating messages, and they have always been that Saudi Arabia can hold its own against any culture — we have so much to offer,” said Al-Akeel.
The fashion founder wants to show the positive side of tradition with designs that have transformed the common abaya into a style statement, for example.


Three million Saudi women ‘on the roads by 2020’

The lifting of the ban on women driving marks a milestone for women in the Kingdom who have had to rely on drivers, male relatives, taxis and ride-hailing services to get to work, go shopping and simply move around. (AP)
Updated 24 June 2018
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Three million Saudi women ‘on the roads by 2020’

  • Kingdom likely to save between SR9bn and SR12bn annually after phasing out foreign drivers
  • The employment landscape in Saudi Arabia will be transformed by the historic start to women’s driving, said a report released by the online recruitment firm GulfTalent.

RIYADH: Several Shoura members, diplomats and rights activists have hailed the landmark decision of the Saudi leadership allowing women to drive, which will cut reliance on foreign workers and boost job growth in the Kingdom. 

“It will empower women and also change the employment landscape of the country,” said Mohammed Al-Khunaizi, a member of the Shoura Council.

Expressing his happiness over this historic moment, Al-Khunaizi told Arab News that “the number of expatriate drivers in the country today exceeds one million.” “The Kingdom will save between SR9 billion and SR12 billion annually after phasing out foreign drivers,” said the Shoura member, while calling the day (June 24) “the biggest day in the history of the Kingdom.”

He said that “the female driving will help create more and diverse job opportunities for women, a move which is in line with the Saudi Vision 2030.” 

“In fact, a large number of Saudi women, as far as I know, have decided to drop their kids to schools, go to supermarkets and visit government offices themselves, ensuring more cohesion, security and dignity for women,” added Al-Khunaizi.  

“It is indeed a courageous step of the Saudi government and its institutions,” said the Shoura member, while referring to the support extended by Shoura Council to this decision.

Commending the decision, which is like history in the making before his own eyes, German Ambassador Dieter W. Haller said: “June 24 marks another important step on Saudi Arabia’s way to modernity. It helps the families and it will boost the Saudi economy… and we welcome it and commend the Saudi leadership for this wise decision.”

“I am very proud to witness this historic moment in the Kingdom,” said Luca Ferrari, Italian ambassador.

He said women driving is a major milestone in the implementation of “the economic and social transformation plan wisely envisaged by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

The Italian envoy, while referring to the reforms in the Kingdom, said: “Women empowerment is a crucial step toward a more inclusive society and a balanced economic growth.” 

Referring to the move, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Quayid, a founding member of the National Society of Human Rights (NSHR), said women driving will boost mobility and ease pressure on family members. 

“Earlier, husbands without drivers were obliged to drive their wives if they need to go to a doctor or for shopping,” said Al-Quayid, adding that the driving by women will boost productivity.

“Most employers, at least in the public sector, accept the cultural norm, implying that driving one’s wife is a legitimate reason not to be present at work,” he added. “This makes lifting the ban on women driving an essential step by the Saudi government in order to make the Saudi economy more efficient in the long run,” he said.

In fact, the employment landscape in Saudi Arabia will be transformed by the historic start to women’s driving, said a report released by the online recruitment firm GulfTalent.

Based on the findings of a survey, the report said that “the career advancement is a major factor in empowering women, which is one of the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.” 

The survey predicts driving will lead to a wave of employed women moving to more lucrative jobs in other companies or institutions.

Many of the survey respondents admitted that they previously had to settle for jobs with lower wages because of the transport constraints. “The move now will have positive implications, especially helping the women working in health and banking sectors,” said Shahzad M. Siddiqui, a senior banker, while referring to a large number of Saudi women joining banking and health sectors. 

By 2020, an estimated 3 million women are forecast to be driving in the Kingdom, according to a report compiled by audit firm PwC.

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