I now celebrate September 26 in the same way as my birthday," says Bashayir Al Barrak. The marketing executive, based in Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, was barely able to believe Saudi TV's news bulletin on September 26, 2017, declaring that women would be allowed to drive in the kingdom from June 2018. "Even the following day my family and I still kept asking ourselves whether it was really true. Being able to drive had been a dream of mine, but it had always seemed a very distant one, and it therefore took some time to fully understand that it would now become a reality."
For Al Barrak, being able to drive has a simple, pragmatic advantage: "I am able to become fully independent and take myself everywhere I need to be, without having to use a driver or ask one of my male relatives to take me," she comments. For her and many of her fellow countrywomen, driving, and a host of other reforms, such as a partial end to the restrictive male guardianship system that puts restrictions on females traveling, taking a job or opening a business without male guardian permission, are now opening the gates to success on many levels - and businesses are taking note.