Doha (Story by R.C. Peris)

It wasn’t until June 2018 that women could drive in Saudi Arabia. My name is Doha and back in 2000, I was one of 48 women who protested the Saudi government’s ban on women driving. I went to school to be an engineer. I got a job, not long after getting my Masters, at a petroleum plant. I was unmarried and to get to work I had to hire a driver. The drivers in Saudi Arabia gouged women. They knew we needed them and were dependent so they charged high prices. A good portion of my salary went to pay a driver. When I got married I hoped my husband could drive me to work but his work with a manufacturer was in the opposite side of the city so I had to keep paying a driver. I had a child and after a short maternity leave, I went back to work. I had to pay the driver. Our expenses had increased but my income did not. Actually, I was the lowest paid engineer in the company. All the men made more than me. When it became legal for me to drive I had this wild idea that I would drive far away. Maybe into Jordan where women had more rights. In the news, I read that many women around the world were joking that Saudi women should use their new right to drive out of the country. I didn’t laugh at this. Maybe because it was a thought we all had. I didn’t drive away. I had a life. A husband, a child, a job I liked. I was a Muslim woman with faith. I was not godless. I liked wearing the veil. I loved Ramadan. The endless effort to be a better person. I’m not sure any Western woman would understand. I bought a car and stayed in my city. I went home and made dinner for my husband and child. This was my life. I should mention I was happy to fire my driver. With the money I was saving I began a savings account for my daughter. I wanted her to go to Oxford or Harvard. I’m not sure why I wanted her out of Saudi Arabia or away from a country that was not Muslim. It was a strange fire in me. I would stay in Saudi Arabia but my daughter would not. This is how women change. Not in their generation but the next and each generation accretes more freedom. I think. I hope. This is what you do as a woman in Saudi Arabia. Think and hope. We are not puppets. We are not property. At the core of us is freedom to be whom we wish. We do not need your prayers. We pray for ourselves. And now I drive my girl to school. It is a remarkable freedom.

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