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WATCH | Saudi women move from behind wheel to under the bonnet

Four years ago women weren’t even allowed to drive in the conservative kingdom

07 June 2022 - 11:15 By Staff Writer

Four years ago women weren't even allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, but a car repair garage in Jeddah is using Saudi women as mechanics.

The Petromin Express garage on the Red Sea coast uses female mechanics to check oil and change tyres alongside their male counterparts, reports AFP.

A royal decree in September 2017 granted women the right to drive and obtain driving licences in the conservative Muslim kingdom, and on June 24, 2018, Saudi women took to the road for the first time in 30 years. The historic move opened new freedoms to women who have long lived under repressive laws. 

Tens of thousands of driving licences have been issued to Saudi women since the driving ban was lifted and driving schools catering to women have opened.

Expanding women's rights has helped soften Saudi Arabia's radical image, and the hiring of female mechanics is part of a nationwide push to bring more women into the workforce.

The women trainees have inevitably encountered some barriers as they enter a field that is male-dominated the world over, and even more so in the conservative Muslim kingdom.

Several told AFP their first months on the job have brought flashes of self-doubt, scepticism from relatives and outright hostility from some customers.

One “old man” who came to the garage ordered all the women out, saying he didn't want them going near his car, recalled recruit Ghada Ahmad.

The country has also eased so-called “guardianship” rules that give men arbitrary authority over female relatives. However women mechanics in Jeddah told AFP they could never have started working without their husbands’ consent.


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