Saudi women change direction and aim for public transportation
In Riyadh, women walk out of a shopping mall to wait for their driver to pick them up. [kiaorgaza]
With more women joining the Kingdom’s labor market, female Saudi employees are demanding public transportation to get them to and from work. Public transport, many say, will be more affordable and safe for women working late.
“We sometimes finish work at 11 p.m. Taking a taxi at that time could cost us up to SR50. Our night shifts are costing us SR1,300 a month one-way,” said saleswoman Suad Khaled. “We still can’t drive, so why aren’t there alternatives that are suitable for everyone?”
Male guardians are not always available to drop off or pick up their female relatives. “My brother is a college student and his hours clash with mine. This has forced me to pay a driver half my salary just to take me to work and back,” said Sumayya Hejazi, a schoolteacher.
“School buses give priority to students and I live far away from the school in which I work, meaning I can’t use the bus. The best solution is having a public transportation system like any other developed country,” she added.
The transport allowance given by companies and organizations is not enough to cover monthly driver or taxi costs.
“My company pays me SR300 transport allowance per month and this covers neither a driver’s salary nor the cost of taking taxis. I pay cab drivers up to SR50 a day to get to and from work,” said Rana Al-Zahrani, a marketer at a private company.
“The company allowance we are given is only enough for public transport. We are in need of women-only buses to get us around the city. This is the only alternative for not being able to drive,” she said.
Saleswomen often work two shifts, creating demand for taxis and private chauffeurs, who take advantage of the situation and overcharge passengers, according to Sarah Bin Sahal, a retail manager at Nayomi.
“Shops are closed and streets are empty between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., after which rush hour resumes. Employees working two shifts have to pay for four journeys a day to and from work. This needs to change,” she said.
“Some women even end up staying at the mall because they cannot go home between shifts. You will find them either sleeping inside the mosque or sitting at one of the restaurants waiting for the next shift to start. This is the only way they are able to save up a little money,” she said.
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