Saudi fathers honored to teach daughters as driving ban nears end

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Nissan ad featuring fathers, brothers and husbands teaching their women how to drive. Video grab
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Coca-Cola ad featuring a father teaching his daughter how to drive. Video grab
Updated 04 April 2018

Saudi fathers honored to teach daughters as driving ban nears end

  • The minimum age to apply for a license for private cars or motorcycles is 18.
  • Any women with valid international licenses and trainer’s permits can apply to become driving instructors

JEDDAH: Ever since the royal decree lifting the ban on women driving was issued on Sept. 26 last year, Saudis have received the historic news in many different ways.
Perhaps the best reaction was fathers and daughters hitting the streets to learn how to steer the wheel.
In preparation for the long-awaited date of June 24, when the royal order will come into force, two Saudi universities, Princess Norah and Effat, announced the opening of driving schools for females.
Effat University recently teamed up with Ford Motor Company by hosting a special Driving Skills for Life program with Effat University.
On the more private and intimate side, some fathers chose to be part of their daughters’ first time behind the wheel.
A number of videos of fathers giving driving lessons to their daughters circulated on social media sites and apps, especially Snapchat, which has millions of users in the Kingdom.

A duty and a special experience
“For me, this decision was expected a long time ago and was just a matter of time,” Baleegh Basharaheel told Arab News on the royal decree. “We have a lot of our daughters and wives who are studying outside the Kingdom and they are driving in Europe, in the US, in Australia. I think it was a decision made to change our culture in Saudi Arabia, and the change is coming too fast.”
The 50-year-old father said that he is neither against nor totally with the decision. “I think there should be some rules, some actions that need to be taken to make the driving of women in Saudi Arabia safe and also practical.”
Speaking of how driving lessons came about, Basharaheel, a resident of Jeddah and a father of four daughters and one son, said: “At the beginning, there was an interest from my daughter is being taught how to drive. I tried with all of my daughters to drive outside Jeddah in some open areas.”
He said he wanted to see for himself which of his daughters has “some caution and is a little bit focused on driving alone, not on any other (distracting) things.
“When I tested all my daughters’ driving skills, I felt that (only) one of them, in the future, can drive easily but still needs more practice and needs to go to driving school to thoroughly learn about the signals, traffic rules and some basic driving tips,” he added.
Basharaheel believes it is a duty to teach his daughters how to be “careful and respectful” on the road. “It’s my duty to remind them about some the tips that they should follow if they are interested in driving in the future.”
Remembering his daughters’ first steps as babies, Basharaheel said there is little comparison between the two situations, but it was more difficult when they were babies.

 

 
“Of course, I was more worried about them when they were babies than now behind the wheel.”
First times and first experiences are always special, particularly with one’s own children. “Teaching my daughters to drive was something I felt was better coming from me. However, that doesn’t mean it is a must. There are some alternatives. Currently, we have drivers and companies that ease the task for fathers, but for me, it was a special experience to have to with my daughters,” Basharaheel said.
He concluded with a piece of advice to all fathers: “It’s a good practice and I advise each and every father to start practicing with their daughters. It should be conducted on a frequent basis to feel and see the progress.”
Basharaheel’s middle daughter said it was a great honor to have her father as her personal driving instructor. “Father is the best instructor ever, because you have a different dynamic with your father from the one that you can get with any other instructor,” said 24-year-old daughter Waad Baleegh.
Apart from the fun they have, Waad said with her father she has access to a massive amount of experience.
Waad, who had taken four or five classes over the past years with her father, said it is a totally different experience: “I never thought this day would come, but here it is! I’m very excited because my dad has always been supportive from the beginning.”
Since her father witnessed everything from the beginning, Waad said he will be the first person to get a ride when she officially hits the streets.
“Of course he will be there to see how I do it all by myself. It’s mandatory for him to be there for my first time. It will have some sentimental meaning to it and will be special.”

A lovely bonding time
Batoul Al-Jabri and her twin sister Rawan, 26, experienced the thrill with their father for only a few minutes behind the wheel and were still able to feel the strong connection this unique experience gives.
“This maybe doesn’t count. Dad is probably too afraid of us wrecking his car!” said Batoul, laughing.
On whether she would rather have her father as her driving instructor, Batoul thinks that the idea has its pros and cons.”
“Yes and no. Yes, because I have fun and regardless of what they might think of girls driving, they themselves have fun (teaching us how to drive).”
“They remember when they first started learning to drive and when they first bought their new car, and they tell you all kinds of stories,” added Batoul. “It is a really lovely bonding time.”
Batoul said that some fathers, in their heads, cannot wait to give their sons their first driving lesson. “To them, it’s a moment they have long been waiting for since the baby was born. They didn’t imagine it would be a girl (who will be receiving those driving lessons).”
She said she has always hoped her father would teach her his “amazing” driving skills. “Dad is an amazing driver, but he is a horrible teacher,” Batoul said jokingly.
“I’m not dissing my father, I’m just saying that he makes me nervous when I drive. You will hear him screaming ‘Watch out, watch out!’ and the car is a mile away. So for this very reason, I said ‘no’ earlier as I’m afraid I would get nervous (if I had my father as an instructor) and then give up driving for good.”

Ads promoting the motion
A couple of world-famous companies took part in the “father and daughter” motion and invested in successful advertisements to further promote it.
Coca-Cola released their ad on Nov. 2 last year under the title “Change is an opportunity, special moment” with the hashtag #ChangeHasATaste. The ad shows a father and his daughter practicing driving in the desert, with the drink as a motivation to master the task.
In another ad by Nissan a number of women were invited to a special driving lesson with an unprecedented instructor. The company brought the fathers, brothers and husbands of these women to give them their first driving lesson.
“I was a bit nervous at first. This was the first time I drove, but knowing my dad was with me I felt safe and comfortable,” said Bayan Ashor from the ad.
Nissan used the hashtag #SheDrives in their ad.

FASTFACTS

June 24

The decision of allowing women to drive will come into force starting from Shawwal 10, 1439 (corresponding to June 24, 2018) and in accordance with rules and regulations, and the completion of the necessary steps, including the obtaining of a driver’s license.


Tokyo summit discusses ‘strategic response’ to Saudi Aramco oil attacks

Taro Kono denounced the recent attacks on Aramco sites in Saudi Arabia. (AN Images/Kevin Hammontree)
Updated 17 September 2019

Tokyo summit discusses ‘strategic response’ to Saudi Aramco oil attacks

  • Shinzo Abe says it is Japan's mission to reset transparent, rules-based international order
  • Goldman Sachs' chief Japan strategist says closing gender gap can greatly boost global GDP

TOKYO: The attacks on Saudi Arabia grabbed all the headline attention at the G1 Global Conference in Tokyo, but the day-long think-in in Tokyo was more than just a survey of the dramatic headlines and images that had dominated the weekend media.

The event is now in its ninth year, as a global leaders’ conference conducted entirely in English on the big themes of international affairs, business, culture and society from a Japanese perspective.

One of the organizers called it the “Davos of Tokyo,” and while it may have fallen short of the famous Swiss Alpine gathering in numbers and glamour, the Sept. 16 event certainly rivaled it in the breadth and ambition of the agenda.

Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, set a high bar in an opening video address in which he said it was “Japan’s mission” to lead the world in resetting the transparent, rules-based international order that has been weakened by the populist waves in the US, Europe and elsewhere.

On the theme of “sustainable innovation in times of disruption”, the G1 followed a familiar pattern of plenaries, breakouts, workshops and networking, in the functional setting of the Globis University in downtown Tokyo. What it lacked in Alpine splendour, it more than made up for with the convenience of a one-day colloquium.

But first, the weekend’s news stole the show at the opening plenary, and was an elephant in the room for the rest of the day.

Taro Kono, the Japanese defense minister, declared the attacks on Saudi oil installations and the threat to global oil supplies the “most worrying scenario” in the world today.

He was backed up by John Chipman, director general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, who criticized the failure of the US and its allies in the Middle East and elsewhere to counter Iranian expansion in the region.

“The strategic response to this has not been properly considered, and now Saudi Arabia’s most important strategic asset has been attacked,” he said.

The attacks on Saudi oil installations also featured prominently in a later session, conducted behind-closed-doors under the Chatham House Rule, at which security experts debated the origins and impact of the attacks, including the appropriate level of response from Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Chipman also spoke frankly about the confrontation between the US and China over trade, technology and digital strategy. “The US and the West has only just woken up to China’s strategic rivalry,” he said.

Referring to the Soviet space launch in the 1950s that stirred the US into a space race with the USSR, Chipman said: “China wants a unipolar Asia in a multipolar world, and that is a ‘Sputnik’ moment for the Americans,” he said.

There was skepticism that US President Donald Trump was the man to lead an effective rule-based order against Chinese expansion.

Mieko Nakabayashi, professor of social sciences at Waseda University, who spent many years in the corridors of power in Washington, said: “A lot of people say that Trump is a disaster, but he also has a lot of supporters. He might win next year’s election, which would make for a very adventurous four years to come.”

Given the East Asian venue and focus of the event, the threat from China, and its relations with neighbors such as Japan, Korea and the Southeast Asian countries, were recurring themes of the day.

A session entitled “Geo-politics: US-China hegemony in Asia” had two experts from opposite sides of the issue. Abraham Denmark, American director of the Asia program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said the US was in the middle of the biggest debate about foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.

Although recent polls suggested that a large number of Americans still support an active role for the US in trade and global affairs, it was also apparent that the old rules of engagement with the rest of the world were no longer sufficient.

“We used to believe that engaging with China was a good thing in itself. Now we have to balance competition and co-operation, and will co-operate only on matters of mutual self-interest,” Denmark said.

Zha Daojiong, of the School of International Studies at Peking University, said there had been some “positive momentum” in recent weeks with both sides pulling back from higher trade tariffs, adding: “What is the antagonism between China and the USA? It is about primacy, and somebody has to be number one. They are like two 800-pound gorillas rising and falling under their own weight.”

Lynn Kuok, of the IISS, gave a Southeast Asian perspective on the issue. “Trump’s insistence that other countries have to ban Huawei means that the USA is saying ‘you have to chose between USA and China,’ but it should not be a choice between two countries but between rules and non-rules based orders.”

The session turned into a barbed exchange between the US and Chinese representatives. “If you give technology to Huawei, you’ve got to assume it will end up with the People’s Liberation Army,” said Denmark, who also complained about Chinese state subsidies to corporations.

Zha Daojiong responded with allegations about subsidies to US defense manufacturers such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin. “Where is the state, and where is the company with them,” he said. Taking a swipe at US financial policy, he said: “Negative interest rates are not very capitalist.”

The G1 was not just about high matters of geopolitics, however. One big theme was the progress towards achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals in environmental, social responsibility and corporate governance.

Also high on the agenda was gender equality. In a session entitled “Womenomics and Gender Equality in Entrepreneurship,” Kathy Matsui, chief Japan strategist at Goldman Sachs, produced recent research showing a direct link between economic growth and greater female participation in the global workforce. “I believe that if you close the gender gap, you could actually boost global GDP by as much as $5 trillion,” she said.

The Tokyo gathering also focused on events that will put Japan in the global spotlight and boost tourism. The Rugby World Cup begins next week, and the country is hosting the Olympic Games in 2020.

In a session headed “How to evolve into a unique and sustainable tourism super-power,” experts discussed Japan’s ambitious plans to increase the number of international visitors and get them to spend more while on holiday. The government wants 40 million visitors next year.

About 75 per cent of foreign visitors to Japan come from four Asian countries — China, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong — and the government would like to attract more Americans, Europeans and Australians, who tend to stay longer and spend more.

This year a 30 per cent drop in the number of Korean tourists is expected as Japan and South Korea square off amid a trade dispute sparked by events dating back to the  Second World War.