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In this March 29, 2014 file photo, Aziza Yousef drives a car on a highway in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of a campaign that at the time aimed to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving.
Hasan Jamali/AP
Girls & Women

Saudi Women Are Gearing Up to Hit the Roads for the First Time in June

Women in Saudi Arabia were elated when the Middle Eastern kingdom announced last September that it would would lift its longstanding ban against women driving.

And when the new policy goes into effect in June, they’ll be ready to hit the road.

Since the country’s first driving school for women opened, women eager to get behind the wheel have flocked to the Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh.

For Saudi women — who still live under the country’s male guardianship system — learning to drive is about more than the thrill of the ride, it’s about gaining independence. Starting in June, women 18 and up will no longer be forced to rely on their husbands, male relatives, or drivers to get around.

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“I don’t want to drive just to drive,” 21-year-old Rehab Alhuwaider, a student at the driving school at Effat University in Jeddah, told the New York Times. “I want to be able to do my daily routine.”

Being able to drive themselves not only means that women will have the opportunity to move about more freely, but also means they will have the opportunity to gain greater financial independence.

Many women are hope to become drivers for ride-hailing apps like Uber and its Dubai-based rival, Careem, on which they once depended. The companies have already begun recruiting female drivers.

Read more: Uber Wants to Put Women Behind the Wheel in Saudi Arabia

"This is a small change, but it's a significant impact on our society," one woman studying at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University’s driving school told CBS News.

The women at the school told CBS News that this change couldn’t have happened just a few years ago, but Saudi Arabia has been taking small steps toward improving women’s rights in the last year as part of its “Vision 2030” large-scale economic and social reforms — including allowing women to attend sporting events with their families and join the military.

Shams Hakim, a student at the Effat University driving school, told CNBC, "I've always been a passenger in the car and I can't wait to get behind the wheel.”

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