RIYADH: A 23-year-old Saudi university student is spearheading a new wave of women taxi drivers in the Kingdom.
Shahad Hamad has become one of the first female cabbies to work for Uber in Saudi Arabia since the lifting of the country’s ban on women driving. The English translation student has found new self-confidence since taking up her part-time role with Uber in Riyadh.
Talking to Arab News, Shahad said she was looking forward to more women getting behind the wheel and joining her in the taxi ranks. So far the young driver has received nothing but rave reviews from her passengers and said she “felt ecstatic” about the positive feedback.
“I never would have imagined the amount of support I have received from people. It’s helped me on my journey,” Shahad said. “I expected that my generation would be excited to see a young female Uber driver; what I didn’t expect was the older generation to be just as enthusiastic, if not more so. It was a big boost for me when older passengers complimented me on my braveness.”
On the subject of reactions from male passengers, Shahad said: “I’ve never had a problem with any passenger, regardless of their gender. However, male passengers always choose to ride in the back seat, although I did have an Asian passenger who sat in the front with me chatting about my experience.”
Her job has also relieved transport difficulties at her family home. “We only had one driver in my family and there was huge pressure and arguments about who went out and when,” she said. “It was a struggle just to go for dinner with friends because of the lack of transport.” Uber recently rolled out a registration portal on its website specifically aimed at Saudi women.
The “Masaruky” initiative offers information to women in the country interested in taking up roles as drivers with the company. The move follows growing interest from Saudi women looking to benefit from the earning opportunities presented to them by becoming taxi drivers. Uber also wants to help women access affordable transportation.
A spokesman for Uber in the Middle East said hundreds of women had registered on its website and expressed an interest in becoming cab drivers. “The Masaruky initiative aims to increase the participation of women in the workforce through access to affordable transportation, in addition to increasing their access to flexible economic opportunities through Uber’s technology,” the spokesman added.
As yet, Shahad has not met any other female Uber drivers, but she is encouraging her friends to join her. “It’s a fun job. There used to be misconceptions surrounding it. But all I have received so far is positive feedback and support.”