Middle East

Saudi women move from behind the wheels to under the hood

Saudi Arabia’s Auto Repair Garage is looking to undeveloped sources of new auto mechanics. A Saudi woman who was not even allowed to drive just four years ago.

In the Petromin Express garage in Jeddah on the Red Sea coast, new employees check oil with men and change tires. This is part of a national promotion to attract more women into the workforce.

Still, female trainees probably inevitably encountered many barriers as they entered the male-dominated territory around the world. Even more so in the conservative Islamic kingdom.

Some told AFP that the first few months of work brought a flash of self-doubt, skepticism from relatives, and complete hostility from some customers.

An “old man” who came to the garage immediately kicked out all the women, saying they didn’t want them to go near the car.

“At first, I’m a woman and he doesn’t trust my work as a woman, so I usually don’t trust us,” he said, wearing grease-striped white gloves and a long blue overcoat. Said Ahmad.

“That’s new to them … After years of seeing only men, now women are coming.”
When she struggled to learn the basics, Ahmad had a moment when she wondered if such a man might make sense.

“I used to go home with swollen hands and cry,’This job isn’t for me. Their words seemed right,” she recalled.
But as her skills improved, so did her self-confidence-helped by other more encouraging customers.

“A man came and said:’I am very proud of you. You respect us. You are the crown on our head.”

Kind husband

Expanding women’s rights is at the heart of Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 Agenda, which aims to diversify oil-dependent economies while softening the radical image of Saudi Arabia.
The most notable changes took place in 2018, when Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, oversaw the end of a women’s ban decades ago.

The country has also relaxed the so-called “guardian” rule, which gives men arbitrary authority over female relatives.

These moves have honed Prince Mohammed’s reputation as an advocate for women’s rights, despite cracking down on opposition that has trapped some of the highly activists driving reform.
Still, a Jeddah female mechanic told AFP that she couldn’t start working without her husband’s consent.

Ola Flimban, a mother of four, 44 years old, first heard about her job from a social media post and immediately asked if she could apply for her husband Rafat Flimban.

Rafat agreed and helped his wife prepare for the interview by giving her the name of the spare part.

“Currently she has experience with different car models, how to change oil and how to check a car. She is checking my car,” he said.

Home support has made it easier for Ora to serve alert customers in the garage. “I was surprised that the girl worked in this area and was asked to explain how we fell in love with this area,” she said.

“That’s the most common question.” As she said, 20-year-old Mechar boarded his silver sedan for an oil change. He admitted that he was “shocked” that the work was done by a woman, but he came soon.

“If they are here, that must mean they are being trained,” he said. “We are confident that this initiative will encourage more women to join the automotive industry at every stage,” said Tariq Jabed, vice president of Petromin.

According to the company, the training covers “all express services including oil, battery, tires, air conditioning and other automotive requirements”.

“We relax the girl”

Perhaps the biggest winner from the company’s initiative is the female driver in the city. “When we drive a car, we relax the girl,” said 30-year-old Angham Jeddawi, who has been in the garage for six months.

“Some girls are shy when dealing with men. They don’t know how to talk to them, and they don’t know what’s going on in the car. But freely with us. I can talk a lot. “

For Jedawi, this job achieved her lifelong goals that she once thought was impossible. “My dream was to enter the automotive sector, but this field wasn’t available to Saudi women, so when the opportunity came, I applied immediately,” she said.

The knowledge she gained encouraged her to go out on her own. She is studying for her driver’s license exam and she wants to get her license within a month. “If you run into a problem in the middle of the road, you now know what to do,” she said. — AFP

https://kuwaittimes.com/saudi-women-move-from-behind-wheel-to-under-the-hood/ Saudi women move from behind the wheels to under the hood

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