Interesting column in Forbes by Moira Forbes - advising those involved in the "Occupy Wall Street" movement to take a few pointers from Saudi women and their quest to gain the right to drive. A link to the story is here, and the text is pasted in below.
Wall Street Protesters Can Learn From Saudi Women - Moira Forbes
Social media has revolutionized political discourse in countries around the
globe, not to mention a few blocks from my apartment in New York City. “Occupy Wall Street,” the grassroots movement decrying the
lack of economic parity in the U.S., began three weeks ago with a small group of
unorganized protesters. But thanks to multi-media efforts on Facebook and up-to-the-minute
tweets from protesters and sympathizers alike, “Occupy Wall Street” has
morphed into a multi-city campaign that has captivated the nation’s attention.
Protests spanned over 70 cities this past weekend alone.
Inspired by the events of the Arab Spring, occupy Wall Street has evolved
into a catch-all movement of frustration. It still remains unclear as to what
activists are actually fighting for or what they intend to accomplish. From the
very beginning, the movement has lacked a clear, unifying statement or a focused
action plan that would result in something more than hundreds of arrests and
depleting the city of New York, and others around the nation, millions of
dollars for security.
In other parts of the world where the political climate is far less open than
in the U.S., social media has been the critical catalyst in effecting actual
change. Yet in a country where we have the precious freedom to protest, Occupy
Wall Street should look to the Middle East not just for inspiration, but also
for guidance if driving change versus making noise is their ultimate goal.
Occupy can start by the following the example set by Saudi women this summer
as they made extraordinary strides in galvanizing global support around breaking
the country’s archaic ban on women driving.
What are the lessons to be learned?
In a region where women lack the power‑-and the protection–to take to the
streets, Saudi women leveraged social media in clever and strategic ways unique
to other activists in the region. In June, a small group of women launched
“Women2Drive,” a grassroots campaign rooted by just a Facebook page and twitter updates aimed at protesting the kingdom’s driving ban.
Women were urged to take to the streets on June 17th, not in massive gatherings,
but rather by getting behind the wheel of a car– and filming it.
Dozens of Saudi women posted videos of themselves driving online, rarely even
speaking and never seeking public attention. And the Twitterverse responded in
support. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
tweeted, “Beep beep and solidarity to the Saudi women & supporters
challenging the driving ban!” Rep. Donna Christensen, the first female physician
in the U.S. Congress tweeted, “In my doc practice some US did everything to
prevent wives driving. They couldn’t! Drive SA women Drive!) And Rep. Karen
Bass, who retweeted Pelosi’s message, added one of her own, “I stand in
solidarity with Saudi Arabian women participating in the #Women2Drive Campaign
The campaign was hugely successful except for some notable exceptions
including one Saudi woman who was sentenced to 10 lashings for defying the ban.
And social media once again served as the clarion call to action perhaps
motivating Saudi King Abdullah to revoke the ruling last month.
The second lesson to be learned from the women’s driving campaign is to stay
extremely focused. The women chose one specific injustice—the ban on driving—and
used it to illuminate the other social and political injustices inextricably
linked to this ban. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans
women from driving or even riding a bicycle, a stunning reality that compelled
tens of thousands around the world to sign online petitions through groups such
Women for Driving. Selecting a less politically charged issue such as the
right to vote also enabled key political leaders like Hillary
Clinton to publicly support this campaign despite the US’ diplomatic
balancing act with Saudi Arabia.
In a shocking and historical move, King Abdullah granted women the right to vote, and as the women’s driving
campaign so brilliantly illustrates, protesters may need a Trojan horse to drive
reform around some of the most sensitive issues facing a country and a
Finally, the Occupy Wall Street protesters need to learn to be patient. Now,
more than ever, we expect change overnight, and while it appeared to change that
quickly in the Middle East this spring, deep, meaningful and sustained change
takes a long time. Even if you can usher in new legislation, it doesn’t mean
that Americans’ daily lives of will change overnight. What’s more, embracing
diverse perspectives remain core to our democratic process and with that comes
compromise and a balancing act for leaders today.
When the Saudi King granted women the right to vote, he faced intense unrest
among the top Muslim clerics, one of the King’s key power bases. Granting women
driving rights may be too politically explosive at this particular moment given
the country’s instability. He knows, as do some other leaders, the value in
measured action. Occupy Wall Street protesters would do well to follow his lead
as well as that of Saudi women.