So my mother sent a letter to a columnist in Arab News and it got published. So proud of her!
By TARIQ A. AL-MAEENA | ARAB NEWS
A growing social issue and a novel argument
With the buzz of women behind the wheels currently sweeping the Kingdom, many have defined and formed their opinions on the matter.
A novel argument, one undoubtedly thought out in detail and raised by one of my readers, deserves its reproduction in full.
Heidi K., a resident of Jeddah writes: “Perhaps we can try to get a discussion going in the Majlis Al-Shoura pertaining to this matter by using a different logic — perhaps the argument of conservation? The fastest and least expensive way to conserve water and other resources in Saudi Arabia would be as follows — allow women to drive!”
Heidi continues: “Where is the connection? Allow me to give an explanation in a very rough estimate of figures: If women were given the right to drive, approximately one million drivers could eventually be sent back to their home countries. Each one of these men consumes about 300 liters of water a day (about 1/3 cubic meter). That’s 300,000,000 liters per day for a million drivers. That’s 90,000,000,000 liters per year. (I’ve made allowances for vacation time). That’s 90,000,000 cubic meters per year of water consumed by drivers alone.
“The Desalination Plant in Shuaiba, Saudi Arabia produces 1,000,000 cubic meters of water per day. That’s 365,000,000 cubic meters a year. If we had a million less drivers we would only need 275,000,000 cubic meters. The Shuaiba desalination plant would thus have 25 percent more water for people to use if women could drive their own cars. Double check the math. “The same approximate figures would hold true for electricity consumption. Even if drivers were to be slowly phased out, this would amount to an enormous saving for the country in terms of water, energy, and of course finances as well.
The employment of drivers is becoming an increasing financial burden. Some women’s salaries are spent solely on a driver’s expenses. Should women then not receive government subsidies for each household, as compensation for the expenses of having to pay recruiting agencies, visas, air fare, medical check-ups, driver’s licenses, traffic tickets, extra living quarters, furniture, insurance, meals, medical bills and medication, and of course water and electricity, etc., in addition to drivers’ salaries?
“What a huge financial burden for a country which doesn’t have much of a middle class, nor pays a minimum wage much higher than that paid to a driver brought in from a developing country, many of whom have never driven a car before coming to work in Saudi Arabia. That brings up the safety issue as well: Safety on the road, safety allowing one’s children day in and day out in the presence of a stranger.
“Which leads me to my next point. The burden of women being banned from driving is also of a psychological and social nature. How has a conservative society such as Saudi Arabia ever allowed itself to bring total strangers into their homes, not knowing the slightest thing about their past, their moral conduct? It’s a mystery. The whole issue of the ban on women driving is a mystery and a paradox.”
And thus Heidi concludes her argument for letting women drive. In that she has chosen an original slant to a social issue of growing concern is indicative that this issue will not simply go away. Nor will those marginalized by social restrictions that confine and constrict their personal development be silent forever. The blanket of traditions and beliefs should be shed from the body of this issue.
Voices have been stirred and have led toward actions, as we have witnessed in the publicized cases of those women behind the wheels. Those women were not trying to be revolutionaries. They were not attempting to revolt against society or create upheavals. They were simply trying to address their frustrations, and in the only manner they felt was at their disposal.
Meanwhile we have Heidi to thank for yet another qualitative argument in favor of letting women drive.