The deal between the only country in the world that bans female drivers and Silicon Valley’s ride-sharing company Uber Technologies Inc. may be as unusual as it is convenient.
One thing is for sure, that it has caused a huge outrage by Saudi women and it has been boycotted by the females residing in Saudi Arabia who are not allowed to drive cars.
They are angry for the fact that the $3.5 billion investment put in by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund in Uber, not only means that the government directly profits from the ban, but also it effectively (in their view) endorses the country’s “no women allowed to drive” policy.
They believe that the whole investment is part of the ultra-conservative Gulf country’s steps toward making money from things other than oil.
Talking about the reaction on social media, where the hashtag سعوديات_يعلن_مقاطعه_اوبر# ( which means “Saudi women announce Uber boycott”) gained a lot of momentum, and women posted pictures showing them deleting Uber apps from their phones.
Uber has been carrying out operations in Riyadh since 2014, and along with another service, Careem, is popular with Saudi women, who have sought the right to drive for more than two decades.
The Saudi Arabian women have always been dependent on some male family member for commutation or always have to pay chauffeurs/drivers. Long story short, it is impossible for the women to travel by themselves as they are deemed to be reliable on someone or the other.
Saudi women have always lived a life without the right to drive. They need permission from a mahram, or male guardian, to get an education or to travel and for some medical treatments. Though more jobs are now open to them, hundreds of dollars from the money they make go toward paying drivers.
On a personal note, it must be so tough to be pulled behind in the sectors of life just because of the absence of the right to drive. Times have changed, business has changed, the society has changed and so has the world changed.
Women in all parts of the world are capitalizing professional opportunities by travelling throughout the world, whereas the women in Saudi Arabia are facing daily challenges of travelling. Apart from the dependence, travelling in cabs and taxis on a daily basis, must be turning out to be pretty expensive.
With the Uber deal being closed by the huge $3.5 billion investment made by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the women in Saudi Arabia have surely raised a lot questions and have displayed their disapproval to this initiative as it might prolong the scope of women finally driving in the country of Saudi Arabia.