Driving for Change

Manal Al Sharif Gives The Saudi Arabian Government the Middle Finger


Women are being oppressed all across the Arab world, they are not allowed the rights of their male counter parts and are objectified by men every time they leave their home. There are multiple countries that do not allow women to drive, vote or divorce an abusive husband. Many women have tried to take a stand to the oppression, including Manal al Sharif. Manal Al Sharif challenged the oppression of women by driving a car in 2012 while it was illegal for women to do so in her country of Saudi Arabia, her small act of courage inspired other women and men to stand up and challenge the oppression of women in the Arab world.
Manal Al Sharif was born on April 25th 1979 in Mecca, Saudi Arabia (Manal Al-Sharif: A Driving Force for Change). Growing up Manal had to ask permission from her male guardian (her brother or father) to do almost anything, travel, work, go to school, and even to get medical treatment. As she grew up Manal realized that the laws in place were very unfair towards women and she wanted to make a change, she wanted women to be seen as equal citizens. One of the first sexist laws that she wanted to challenge was the driving ban against women driving in Saudi Arabia.  Driving in Saudi Arabia isn’t technically illegal for women. However, there is a religious edict that was issued in the early 1990’s that made the act of women driving in Saudi Arabia forbidden (The Woman Who Defied Saudi’s Driving Ban and Put It on YouTube).  Furthermore, although it is not illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia the country requires citizens to use a locally issued license when driving in the country. Those licenses are not issued to women (The Woman Who Defied Saudi’s Driving Ban and Put It on YouTube). In May 2011 Manal Al Sharif filmed herself driving a car in Saudi Arabia. She posted that video to YouTube and asked women to participate in her Women2Drive campaign on June 17th of the year. She was detained the next day and was held for 9 days without being charged with anything. Eventually Manal was released, largely because of international pressure, especially pressure from twitter and Facebook (A Saudi Woman Who Dared to Drive: Manla Al Sharif).

Many published media sources have written pieces about Manal al Sharif that portray her the brave, courageous, strong, and independent women that she is. CNN, Aquila Style, and United Nations Human Rights are among the sources that have commended Manal on her bravery. “Manal al-Sharif is following in a long tradition of women activists around the world who have putthemselves on the line to expose and challenge discriminatory laws and policies (A Saudi Woman Who Dared to Drive: Manla Al Sharif)” CNN talked largely about how Manal has changed to become to woman’s activist she is today, Manal was an Islamic extremist for a large portion of her life. This transition shows that Manal’s bravery goes far beyond her driving, she has shown her bravery for a lot longer than that, challenging the beliefs she had been taught and held on to deeply for so long (The Woman Who Defied Saudi’s Driving Ban and Put It on YouTube). The United Nations Human Rights Office of the Commissioner mainly focuses on what is yet to come for Manal, it explains that although she has received global recognition for her bravery she still has a lot that she wants to get done (Manal Al-Sharif: A Driving Force for Change). These sources further prove the conclusions that I have made; Manal Al Sharif is an extremely brave individual who risked her life and her freedom to better the treatment of women in the Arab world in the years to come.

Student Author: Jenna Williamson a third year psychology students at  Champlain College

Rob Williams, Ph.D.,  Champlain College Faculty Adviso

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