Monday, August 29, 2011

Shoura council discusses urgent solutions to women's transport, not women driving

Saudi Arabia's Shoura Council is discussing urgent measures to take to relieve the women's transportation issue. Below is the Saudi Gazette's coverage of the story. But no one mentions, not one word, the huge 'elephant in the room'....why not just let women drive? Public transportation has been tried - the Saudi bus system has separate seating for women - but it's not highly used by Saudi women. A link to the story is here

Shoura members want urgent, safe transport solution for women

JEDDAH – Amid the high costs to Saudi families that employ drivers, the suffering of female employees due to the lack of means of transportation to their jobs and regulations barring women from driving, suggestions have been put forward to develop safe means of transport that are similar to those in foreign countries.
Experts said there is a serious need to address the matter because some families are forced to pay thousands of riyals to drivers, which can cause a financial burden on the families. Some drivers demand higher salaries, which can make it unbearable for families in need of their services. Taking taxis every day adds up to a considerable expense and male family members are often unavailable.
Dr. Mish’al Al-Ali, a member of the Shoura Council and chairman of the Petitions Committee, called on the government and the private sector to create a temporary system, which would replace payment of transportation allowances, to safely transport female employees to and from their jobs, Al-Hayat Arabic daily reported Friday.
A system of this nature would safeguard the female employees’ dignity and ensure they are not subjected to the taxi drivers’ monopolies, he added.
The permanent solution should be to provide a means of public transportation with precise schedules, similar to those in advanced countries, which suit the conservative nature of Saudi women and their social status.
He pointed out that many people in other countries use public transportation and they do not find anything wrong in doing so because it is up to the required standard.
The need for effective public transportation has increased as employment of women has grown, Dr. Al-Ali said.
“In implementation of the royal orders, large numbers of women have been employed in many government departments,” he said. “Women are enjoying their rights in getting employment and there are equal opportunities for women and men in all the government departments.”
Dr. Al-Ali said creating a means of public transportation needs “a vision and a feasibility study. After that we will find that the private sector will rush for these projects.”
Setting up an effective public transportation system would also address other problems such as traffic jams, he added.
Providing the transportation system does not need a detailed study, he said, but taking a decision and dealing with the issue pragmatically.
He also proposed that some government departments arrange with some companies owning taxis, minibuses and similar vehicles to transport female employees to and from their jobs and charge low fares.
“We need courageous, strong ideas that can be implemented on the ground,” Dr. Al-Ali stressed. “All the capabilities are easily available, but the problem is in not taking decisions at the right time and not dealing with the problem immediately.”
Dr. Hamad Al-Qadhi, another member of the Shoura Council, agreed that providing transportation for female employees has become a necessity.
“Women are now working in many government and private authorities, and institutions,” he said. “There are some women whose places of work are far away from their residences.” He pointed out that it can be difficult for women to find a male family member to drive her to and from work because the men have their own work commitments.
Not all women have drivers, he pointed out, taking taxi cabs every day is expensive and it is appropriate to address the matter.
“If we realize that women are barred from driving cars in our country, it is a duty to provide them with public transportation,” he said.
Dr. Al-Qadhi said he understands that some government departments and universities provide secure transport for female students and employees. “I believe that there are companies for transporting female students and teachers,” he said. “This means of transport can be provided to female employees in the other sectors.”
Dr. Al-Qadhi, who reiterated that the work of the Shoura Council is legislative and supervisory, said providing transportation is an executive matter and the responsibility of the government and private authorities.
Dr. Asia Aal Al-Sheikh, a Shoura Council adviser, stressed that a “respectable” means of public transportation should be provided to female employees so a lack of transportation does not prevent them from going to work. Dr. Aal Al-Sheikh admitted that providing transportation is a big problem that needs to be resolved.
She cited problems female teachers face, including accidents that have claimed many lives, when they travel to and from their schools.
Dr. Aal Al-Sheikh expressed concern about “our dependence on inexperienced drivers.”
She said this subject has not been put forward for discussion in the right way and at the right place.
There are no women in decision-making positions so nobody speaks on behalf of women, she added.
Dr. Aal-Al-Sheikh referred to a study by Khadija Bint Khuwailid Center, which said resolving the problem should be a priority.
“However, I don’t know that anything has been done about it,” she said. “There are people working and expressing their demands, but one does not know where the fault lies.”
The majority of taxi drivers interviewed by Al-Hayat said most of their clients, up to 75 percent of them, are female citizens and expatriates.
The drivers said the women take taxis because there is no alternative. — SG __


  1. Note: on September 27, 2011 - the Saudi Gazette reports that the Shoura Council is reconsidering the issue of women driving. See our blog entry of that title dated September 27, 2011.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.