One thing I can’t get over when I’m in the city is the driving. I was one of those people who thought that because I learned how to drive in Jordan, a nation whose population is not blessed with the best of driving skills, I could drive anywhere. That statement definitely doesn’t apply to New York. It takes a very specific skill set to “manage” driving around this city. Still, I couldn’t be happier about that. It’s the best way to remember the joy that can be brought about by simple strolls! A few weeks ago, on one of those very strolls, I decided to fulfill one of the cheesier goals on my bucket list: find the perfect park bench in Central Park and read something.
The park bench I found was perfect. It was right under what looked like a less frightening version of the “Whomping Willow” from Harry Potter. The lighting was just right, the weather was cooperating, and Mother Nature sent a few cool breezes every couple of minutes. I sat down and picked up Time Magazine’s Influential People Edition from last April, which I had been meaning to go through. I’ve been an avid follower of this list for the past few years, and am always left awestruck with some of the amazing things people around the world accomplish. The one individual that grabbed my attention, though, was Manal Al Sharif, a Saudi Arabian woman very close to my age.
Manal, of course, took over headlines in and around the Arab World for leading approximately 100 women on a drive around a Saudi Arabian city, defying the long upheld ban on female driving. She also uploaded a video of herself driving onto YouTube, gaining an audience of millions only a few hours after doing so. What I wasn’t aware of though, in my new home here in the U.S, is that Manal’s campaign continues to grow within Saudi Arabia. The country has seen several instances of women standing up for their rights in the past few months.
(I recently discussed one of these stories. See it here)
On the one hand, Manal has received death and assault threats from many wishing to uphold the ban on female driving. On the other hand, support for Al Sharif’s cause is extraordinary and uplifting, with movements and groups around the world calling on women in many nations to drive to Saudi Arabian Embassies and honk their cars in support of Al Sharif’s second “drive for change” being planned for this upcoming Sunday, June 17th. Al Sharif’s cause is inspiring, and her work has been nothing short of brave and daring. I hope that individuals emulate Manal, and see her as a source of inspiration in the road to achieve gender equality in the Arab World.