Imagine for one minute that the U.S. Congress passed a law forbidding women to drive in urban areas. While my husband would be happy (he is not a fan of my driving skills), I am fairly certain that you and most of America would be appalled at such a law. I recently read a couple stories about women in Saudi Arabia not being permitted to drive in Saudi cities:
Excuse me while I look at my calendar – just want to be certain that it really is 2011. One woman who posted photos of herself driving on Facebook was placed in jail for nine days – NINE DAYS for driving! Others have been harassed by police and shunned by their communities.
When I was growing up in Malaysia I was told from a very early age that I was to become a teacher who was to marry a doctor or lawyer – not to become one! Reading stories like this makes me step back and reflect upon just how fortunate we are to live in the United States of America, a country where basic human rights are valued and protected. I realize the fact that a glass ceiling still exists but it is really amazing how far women’s rights have advanced in the past century. We really owe a great deal of homage to all of the generations of women who came before us to fight for our rights. Looking back helps to motivate me to look ahead. I often ask myself what can I do to make the world a better place for my children and future grandkids.
Societies, like much of humanity dislike change. The first challengers of unfair laws will almost always go to jail or be punished by those in power. Picture Susan B. Anthony for women’s suffrage or Rosa Parks for riding in front of the bus plus countless others. Those who disagree feel that by trying to put these women leaders in jail or punishing them, they can stop a movement. But once people see that someone is willing to stick their necks out, they will follow. The women who dared to drive have decided that it’s worth going to jail to get the movement started, so that ultimately their daughters will get to drive.
A lot of our freedoms and rights that we enjoy today are the results of those who dared to challenge. Hard to imagine that something as simple as driving will land a woman in jail. In the future when the women of Saudi Arabia are driving their own cars, they can thank their mothers, aunts, grandmothers who went to jail for challenging an unjust law.
Life is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Sometimes we need not take for granted the freedoms that we do have and appreciate the fact that we live in a democracy that values women. This does not mean we can rest on our laurels – we still have work to do. Let’s use progress to motivate us. Next time you start to feel depressed do me a favor…pick up the keys and go for a drive.
“Modern invention has banished the spinning wheel, and the same law of progress makes the woman of today a different woman from her grandmother.”- Susan B. Anthony
Pictures from: Silvija Seres, 12 April 2002; http://www.silvija.net/2002SaudiMay/medain.html; http://www.traveljournals.net/pictures/153259.html;(FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images);http://www.newint.org/features/2009/10/01/different-voices/;Wikipedia:publicdomain;Wikipedia:public domain