“Driving while female” was the charge against Manal al-Sharif when she was arrested and jailed. She is a women’s rights activist and the innovator of a movement to lift the ban against women driving in Saudi Arabia. Manal’s “ferociously intimate memoir,” Daring to Drive, is a compelling read that impacts the reader.
She started the movement “#Women2Drive” in 2011, and for many months, she worked hard to convince women to make the commitment to support women driving. However, in her zeal to make sure her social media contacts were making enough contacts, she set out driving her own car. She was arrested and jailed, even though there was no legislated law in the country that forbade women from driving.
Manal dared to drive before the ban was lifted and therefore, she had broken a moral law, she was told. She had been, according to Minnesota Public Radio, “driving while female” in Saudi Arabia. And yet, she was released from prison and asked to sign papers promising not to drive anymore. Her story brought about world outrage. She has given many talks and produced a TED talk discussing women’s rights. In her society, women were under a guardianship which means they were unable to be independent. This right is her main focus. She has created an uproar around the world, but even more so in her own country.
Manal left Saudi Arabia and lives in Australia with her family, but she is not often seen in Saudi Arabia where the ban on women driving was in fact lifted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on June 24, 2019.
As I have read this woman’s story, I am impacted over and over again because I realize what privilege I have as a woman in America.
Mary Jane Berger, OSB