This week, Saudi Arabia made a historic announcement: Women will finally be allowed to drive in the conservative kingdom. It's a big milestone many people in the country are celebrating, and rightly so — the news comes on the heels of the 2015 decision that accorded Saudi women the right to vote, and the official loosening of the guardianship rules earlier this year that had previously given men power over female relatives' lives. But, when compared to other developed nations, Saudi Arabia’s lifting of the driving ban is far from a complete fix for the policies and attitudes that still dictate the lives of female residents of the largely patriarchal and religious society (the country was ranked 141 out of 144 for gender parity by the World Economic Forum).
But for all the attention when news like this breaks, the lives and views of Saudi women often go unheard and misunderstood, especially in the Western world and media. The notion that they're no more than completely covered subjects who, until yesterday, couldn't drive, fails to capture the strides many women are making in their professional and personal lives, within the cultural and governmental structures that differ from much of the West.
At the end of the day, young Saudi women, like their Western peers, hold a spectrum of backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences that are as varied as they come. So we went to 12 Saudi women to ask them to share their perspectives in their own words. Read their stories ahead.