When I was in my teens, my parents and younger brother lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia while my dad worked for Saudi Arabian Airlines. I couldn’t live there full-time as they didn’t allow secondary education for expatriate females. So during the school year I lived in Pensacola, Florida with my aunt and uncle, and spent my summers and every school break in Jeddah with my family.
Living in Saudi was an awesome experience for me at that time in my life. I credit it with my cultural awareness and sensitivity, as well as my fondness for most things middle-eastern. Since I was a teenager at the time, the cultural restrictions on females were not as offensive to me. Not to say I didn’t recognize the injustice… I certainly did. But my parents did their best to control my whereabouts, so a little extra restriction didn’t seem that bad in exchange for all of the rich culture I got to immerse myself in.
My mother, on the other hand, was miserable there. While I think this may have changed, even expatriate women were not allowed to drive. Just as Saudi women must, my mother was required to always have a male escort, wear an abaya, and never look a man outside of her family in the eye (my father was almost arrested when I broke this rule once!). For a self-proclaimed “women’s libber”, her lack of civil rights in Saudi Arabia were unbelievably oppressive and prevented her from enjoying the beauty that Saudi had to offer.
On many occasions we would discuss the inequalities that women faced… agreeing that it was unfair and oppressive, but disagreeing on how change ought to be brought about. Mom suggested that the global community should pressure Saudi to address their inequalities for women while I believed that Saudi women must tackle that issue on their own. It seems that today we are both on the same side. On June 17th, Saudi women and their supporters all over the world participated in #Women2Drive day to bring attention to this particular inequality. And today Hillary Clinton publicly pledged support for the movement.
I will certainly be supporting #Women2Drive and keeping up with the movement online, and you should too. Mashable has been doing a pretty good job of keeping me informed, but connecting with Saudi Women to Drive at Change.org will give you a heads up about related campaigns and petitions.