The pathetic condition of the rights of women in Saudi Arabia is known to all. But there are women in the desert country who are standing up for their rights and raising their voices. They are getting thrown behind bars but are not letting their spirit die.
Manal Al-Sharif is an example of that kind of Saudi woman who seeks empowerment. The mother of two who now lives in Sydney was put behind bars for nine days just because she dared to drive. She had uploaded a YouTube video of herself travelling through the streets of Khobar in May 2011.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that forbids women from driving – but the ban did not stop the her from taking back control over her life.
Manal bravely defied Saudi Arabia’s female driving ban and has now opened up about the ordeal. The doting mother-of-two said she still stands defiant in the battle against Saudi laws preventing women from driving in the country.
Despite her backlash, she and many other women are looking for the law to be abolished. The big question is that a car is just a machine. If women could ride a donkey and a camel in the past, why can’t they drive their own cars today?
She said, “Women are still being treated as slaves in 2017. I will never give up. The rain begins with a single drop. I just want to end the longstanding awkward laws imposed on women in my country. To me, women equality is to be in good dignity, to be herself without the permission from anyone. To have access to education, to have access to jobs and be independent. And Women should not be discriminated against for her gender.”
This is not the first time that she is breaking barriers. She was a computer security engineer and became the first Saudi female IT security consultant working for the oil business Saudi Aramco for a decade.
She has written a memoir called ‘Daring To Drive’, describing her experiences. Her elder son is the inspiration and driving force for why she became a writer.
One day when he came from school, he had bruises all over his face. Upon asking him what really happened, her son left her with other question, “Mom, are we bad people?”
This echoed in her mind and she was determined to bring the change and not let her kids grow in a country where their mothers and sisters aren’t respected.
In her interview with Lan Anh, Manal said there are always rumors about activists in countries like the ones she lives in. The solution?
“So you always have to be available. You have to be present on social media and not question the rumors, but simply be there. You have to talk about the things that you do, because unless you keep them busy with what you do, they will keep you busy with what you say. That is what my activism has taught me.”
Her entire speech can be viewed here.
She leaves us with a beautiful message that we all need to imbibe within ourselves. Her message to the world is, “Surrender your ego: try not to think that you are not as fortunate as some people or inferior or not as good as someone else. Everything is possible; we just need to be hopeful and think of the world from a human perspective. The world is so small compared to the universe, so we shouldn’t fight for petty things.”
Manal is planning to start a movement to help sponsor any Saudi woman who wants to acquire her driver’s license abroad. The goal is to sponsor 1,000 women per year.