Meet Manal al-Sharif, the 38-old-year women’s rights activist from Saudi Arabia who started the women’s right to drive campaign in 2011 which ignited a firestorm in the conservative country. Born on April 25, 1979 in Saudi Arabia’s Mecca, al-Sharif first hit the headlines back in 2011, when she filmed a video of herself driving in Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world that has banned women from getting behind the wheel, and posted it on Youtube where it went viral later. For following her passion for driving, she was arrested and imprisoned for about a week, two days later, according to a Reuters report. She received life threats and her father had to appeal to the Saudi king to get her out of the jail. As far as her video is concerned it went viral with 700,000 views in just a day, according to a report in pri.org. “A woman is considered a minor from the time she’s born until the time she dies,” she says. “When women drive in my country, they will have the voice and the power and the belief that they can do anything and they will act on ending the guardianship system,” as quoted in the report.
At the age of 18, she enrolled herself in the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, where she met liberal women that helped her change her outlook towards her life. Manal al-Sharif is currently based in Australia with her husband and sons. She has her own memoir that goes by the name ‘Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening’ released this year itself. The book has all the details of al-Sharif from driving for the first time to being an inspiration for others. The First chapter in the book- ‘A Country of One King and Millions of Queens,’ elaborates on the day when police came to her house and detained her for driving a car which belonged to her brother in a country where females are not allowed to drive.
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Recently, when King Salman announced that his son Mohammed bin Salman, 31, will be next in line to the throne, replacing his cousin, a ray oh hope broke through for Manal al-Sharif. As reported by Reuters, she welcomed the king’s decision and said that she was hopeful that prince’s young age and his work on the country’s Vision 2030, that has a target to lift women in the workforce to 30 percent by 2030 from 22 percent, would open more doors for women.