Saudi Women for Driving, a coalition comprised of Saudi academics, bloggers and activists, are putting pressure on leading car manufacturers to pull out of Saudi Arabia until women have the right to drive.
They have approached Subaru first because it is heavily marketed at women and sponsors women’s surf festivals, triathlons and ski events as well as the Outstanding Woman in Science Award for the Geological Society of America. The online petition on Change.org says “while Subaru is marketed heavily at women, your company is simultaneously making hundreds of millions selling your cars in the only country on earth where women aren't allowed to drive.”
SWfD highlight how important it is for Saudi women to be able to drive by writing, “Many from our religious establishment openly state that the reason they prohibit women from driving is to keep women at home and in need of men. Our lack of this basic right to drive our own cars has been repeatedly exploited by abusive fathers, brothers, husbands and even hired drivers. Just this week a Saudi woman reported she was raped by her driver.”
The next step for the campaign is to extend the same request to General Motors Co.’s Cadillac and Seoul-based Hyundai Motor Co., both brands of cars that Manal al-Sharif uses. Al-Sharif is a Saudi woman who was arrested in May for driving and incited the campaign as a result.
So far there is little word from Subaru other than from Michael McHale, director of Corporate Communications at Subaru of America, who told Mashable, “We’re pleased to be recognized as progressive by the coalition and we are looking closely into the issue.” Tokyo-based Kenta Matsumoto, spokesman for Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., Subaru’s parent company, told Bloomberg that dealers in Saudi Arabia haven’t received any news of the campaigns. He added, “We only have dealers in Saudi Arabia, and no factories. Our annual sales in the country are limited to only 300 to 400 units.”
These ladies are working hard to get their message heard from an international audience by using social media like Twitter, Facebook and online petitions. They have also managed to secure a supporting statement from Hillary Clinton and Princess Ameerah, as well as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Representative Tammy Baldwin. They are waiting to hear from Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, who they have address in a petition requesting her support.
The determination of these women is amazing and it is exciting to see the story unravel as they find creative ways to reach out for supporters and drive in their neighborhoods in defiance. There are 13 million women in Saudi Arabia whose lives could be improved by the ability to drive.
[Bloomberg, Mashable, Change.org]
Photo: Peace is the New Black