Women welcomed to Saudi roads

1 / 7
This historic decision will positively impact not only the lives of individuals but also on the future of businesses within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
2 / 7
3 / 7
4 / 7
5 / 7
6 / 7
7 / 7
Updated 25 June 2018
0

Women welcomed to Saudi roads

  • This historic decision will positively impact not only the lives of individuals but also on the future of businesses within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Businesses such as spas, cafés, hotels and restaurants were offering something in return for Saudi women showing their licenses

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia eased into its first commuter day with women on the roads without a hitch on Sunday.

It was a historic day of celebration as police gave female drivers flowers, hotels offered rooms and meals to the first women to arrive driving their cars, cafes served them free coffee, while the Ministry of Transport greeted them with a billboard that read “Dear sister, we wish you safety always.”
Many women were seen driving to their offices on Sunday morning, while a few were driving on the outskirts of Riyadh to acclimatize themselves with the environment before they hit the roads.
“As of 12am, the implementation of the Supreme Court order to enable women to drive and the implementation of traffic regulations to both men and women is officially in effect,” said Col. Sami Al-Shwairkh, the official spokesman for General Security in the Kingdom.
“The security and traffic status on all roads and areas around the Kingdom have been reported as normal. There have not been any records from our monitoring of any unusual occurrences on the road throughout the Kingdom.”
Meanwhile, businesses such as spas, cafés, hotels and restaurants were offering something in return for Saudi women showing their licenses.
The ladies-only spa at Jeddah’s Park Hyatt Hotel, Evania Spa, was giving free access to the first three women who show up to it with a 30-minute massage as part of the day’s celebrations.
Restaurants such as Punjab Grill, Rosso and Rai in Jeddah were offering free lunch or dinner to every female that arrived in her own vehicle and showing her driver’s license.
Hotels such as the Narcissus in Riyadh and Sheraton Damman were also celebrating women driving by offering a free night’s stay and dinners at their top restaurants for the first women to arrive in their own cars.
Women enthusiastically and wholeheartedly cheered on their fellow female drivers, beginning after midnight, packing Jeddah’s Corniche in the middle of the night and then into the day.
Saudi Shoura Council member Lina Almaeena was among the very first women to drive in the Kingdom as soon as the clock struck midnight. “I feel proud, I feel dignified and I feel liberated,” she said.
Almaeena told Arab News that the event was changing her life by “facilitating it, making it more comfortable, making it more pleasant, and making it more stress-free.”
She urged all drivers to follow the traffic and road safety rules. “What’s making me anxious is the misconduct of a lot of the drivers, the male drivers. Unfortunately, they’re not as disciplined as they should be. Simple things such as changing lanes and using your signals — this is making me anxious.”
And this isn’t because Almaeena doesn’t know what she’s doing. “I’m confident: I’ve driven all around the world when I travel, especially when I’m familiar with the area. It’s really mainly how to be a defensive driver because you have to be.”
On how society is adapting to this major change, Almaeena said: “Tomorrow is the first day, mentally and psychologically, it already had that shift. As I mentioned, it’s a paradigm shift. In perception and how they view women, their capabilities — as equal partners.
“Mentally, it’s already there, and physically we will see, as we start, more and more encouragement for both men and women. Even some of the women who weren’t feeling comfortable about driving, it’s going to be encouraging for them, in a live demonstration and evidence that women can do it.”
Dr. Soha Tashkandi, chairperson of clinical pathology in Riyadh’s King Fahad Medical City, also got into her car just after midnight but was back out in the day. “When the clock struck 12am on Sunday, June 24, I drove in my country for the first time,” she said. “It was a memorable night, not only because I took to the wheel in Saudi, but because my 18-year-old daughter was alongside me. She also had the chance to drive.”
She and her daughter were some of the first ladies to register for a license, and her husband supported them all the way.
Tashkandi, with her husband Dr Ismael Baksh in the back seat, took an Arab News reporter for a spin yesterday. When Baksh was asked how he feels sitting in the back seat, he replied: “Finally, I can relax”.
Tashkandi praised the Saudi Driving School (SDS) as a positive experience that was full of ease. Nothing could stop them from getting their licenses, she said. “The SDS team were highly professional and helpful accommodating my training schedule according to my long working hours. Part of the training was during the holy month of Ramadan, but this did not stop me or my daughter from taking the full 30-hour training.”
As she made a right turn, Tashkandi said: “Whether at home or working as an individual, Saudi women have always been supported by their male peers. Today, we all celebrate together.
“This historic decision will positively impact not only the lives of individuals but also on the future of businesses within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”


Shoura Council: We are the ears of Saudi society

Updated 19 November 2018
0

Shoura Council: We are the ears of Saudi society

  • The Shoura Council that the King is addressing today has a vital role to play in government
  • Female Shoura Council members have played a major role in raising their voices over many issues concerning social development in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: When King Salman gives his annual speech that will open the third year of the Shoura Council’s seventh session today, it will set the tone for what lies ahead for the Kingdom, laying the groundwork for the consultative assembly to help to move the country forward.
“The King’s speech in the Shoura Council lays the road map to achieving Vision 2030,” said Lina Almaeena, one of its 30 female members. Women make up of 20 percent of the council, the same percentage of women who now hold seats in the US Congress.
While only midway through its seventh session, the roots of the Shoura Council date back to before Saudi Arabia’s founding. After entering the city of Makkah in 1924, King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud entrusted the council with drafting the basic laws for the administration of what was to become the future unified Kingdom.
In 1928, amendments were made as public interest grew. A new law consisting of 24 articles, which included the permanent appointment of a vice-president by the King, was issued to facilitate the council’s work.
In 1953, the council’s jurisdictions were distributed between the Council of Ministers and other government entities, reducing the Shoura Council’s power, although it continued to hold sessions until its mandate was once again broadened this century.
Its current format consists of a Speaker and 150 council members, among them scholars, educators, specialists and prominent members of society with expertise in their respective fields, chosen by the King and serving a four-year term.
The council convenes its sessions in the capital of Riyadh, as well as in other locations in the Kingdom as the King deems appropriate. Known as Majlis Al-Shoura inside the Kingdom, its basic function is to draft and issue laws approved by the King, as the cabinet cannot pass or enforce laws, a power reserved for the King to this day.
The Shoura can be defined as an exchange of opinions, and so another of its functions is to express views on matters of public interest and investigate these issues with people of authority and expertise, hence the 14 specialized committees that cover several aspects of social and governmental entities. From education, to foreign affairs, members assigned to committees review proposed draft laws prior to submitting them to the King, as they are able to exercise power within its jurisdiction and seek expertise from non-Majlis members. All requested documents and data in possession of government ministries and agencies must go through a request process from the Speaker to facilitate the Shoura Council committees’ work.
Female members are a fairly recent phenomenon. In September 2011, the late King Abdullah stated that women would become members of the council. In 2013, two royal decrees reconstituted the council, mandating that women should always hold at least a fifth of its 150 seats and appointed the first group of 30 female Shoura members.
Five years on, female Shoura Council members have played a major role in raising their voices over many issues concerning social development in Saudi Arabia. “It’s a golden age for Saudis and, as women, we’ve come a long way,” said Almaeena. “We’re living an era of historical change, and we’re making up for lost time.”
As part of their roles, members of the council have the right to discuss general plans for economic and social development, particularly now with the Vision 2030 blueprint. Annual reports forwarded by ministries and governmental institutes, international treaties and concessions are also within the council members’ remit, to discuss and make suggestions that are deemed appropriate.
“Many positive changes have taken place in the past few years, and the Shoura Council’s role has always put social developments first and foremost,” said Dr. Sami Zaidan, a council member of two terms. “The appointment of women diversified and expanded the discussions and has added value.”
Major achievements were chalked up in this term’s second year. Many of the draft proposals discussed received approval votes. On Nov. 8, a proposal with 39 articles to protect informants from attacks, threats and material harm was approved by the majority of the council. The draft law, suggested by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Economy and Planning, would provide whistle-blowers with protection.
In May, the Shoura Council also approved legislation criminalizing sexual harassment in the Kingdom. The Cabinet, chaired by King Salman, backed the legislation, which required a royal decree to become law. Under it, perpetrators may face a jail sentence of up to five years and a SR 300,000 fine.
Draft regulations must go through a two-step process. The first, a chairman of a committee reads a draft of a proposal on the floor, and council members vote on referring the proposal to the designated committee. If members agree to the referral, each article is discussed thoroughly, studies are conducted on the aspects of the proposal, and after completing all the necessary checks, it reaches the second stage. The council then discusses the committee’s recommendations and a vote is set for each article proposed in an earlier session by the committee’s chairman.
Other proposals on the discussion table for this session include one that recognizes the importance of voluntary work in the community, in compliance with Vision 2030, which talks about one million volunteers in the Kingdom by 2030. The council has also asked the General Sports Authority to speed up the development of sports cities and to diversify its functions in different parts of the Kingdom to help the organizational level of women’s sports become an independent agency affiliated to the GSA chairman.
The council has also discussed a recommendation for women to hold leadership positions in Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic missions abroad, from a report by the council’s Foreign Affairs Committee. With approximately 130 women working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the report recommended the necessity of an appointment as an affirmation that Saudi women are able to take over leadership positions as ministers, ambassadors and Saudi representatives in international forums.
Almaeena pointed out that Shoura Council members are the ears of society, playing an important role in relaying the public’s message to the designated committees. “The Shoura Council’s doors are always open, although not many know this,” she said. “The public is always welcome and can attend sessions, scheduling ahead of time. The doors to the council have always been and will always be open to all.”