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Saudi Arabia took a major step in the direction of gender equality last year when it announced Saudi women would finally be granted the right to obtain a driver’s license and drive in their own country. In the wake of that groundbreaking announcement, a wide range of third-party driving services and apps have begun flocking to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to provide necessary support and infrastructure for this entirely new population of drivers. Uber and other ride-sharing apps are already hiring their first female drivers in anticipation of women hitting the roads this summer. To aid in the transition, female driving instructors from right here in the U.S. are heading for the adventure of a lifetime as they head to Saudi Arabia to open the country’s first female driving schools.
Laws in Saudi Arabia forbid women to be taught by men, hence the need for all-female driving instructors and women-only traffic schools. Since there is no history of women driving in the country, Saudi Arabia is importing female driving instructors from around the world. Seattle area news outlet KOMO recently interviewed three such instructors from the Pacific Northwest who are preparing to embark on this historic journey.
When asked if she was worried about her upcoming trip, Cheryl Van Derwalker with Driving Solutions International said she has “absolutely no hesitation whatsoever” about going. “We fortunately have the skill set to tell them this is how you start a school, here’s all the ways to enroll them, here’s how you work with the instructors,” Van Derwalker told KOMO.
An estimated 9 million women are expected to register for a driver’s license later this year when the new laws take effect, but that doesn’t mean that all Saudis – male or female – are excited about the change. That’s where these international driving instructors come in, demonstrating that women are just as capable at driving as men. “There will be a group of people that do not want this change,” said Dominique Kuzmaak, of Driving Solutions International. “We need to get this right so that we can prove that it works.”