Women’s rights advocate known for breaking Saudi driving ban launches OIE Speaker Series

Women's rights advocate Manal al-Sharif.

Women’s rights advocate Manal al-Sharif.

Manal Alsharif, an advocate for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia known for filming herself as she broke that nation’s law against women driving, launches a series of talks at Bates College exploring human diversity.

Alsharif describes her life and work at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, at the Edmund S. Muskie Archives, 70 Campus Ave. The opening event in the fall 2013 Office of Intercultural Education Speaker Series at Bates, Alsharif’s lecture is presented jointly with the Harward Center for Community Partnerships’ Civic Forum Series. It’s open to the public at no cost.

In May 2011, Alsharif filmed herself driving a car in Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world where women are barred from driving. She posted the video on YouTube, called on women to participate in a Women2Drive campaign on June 17 of that year, and attracted 12,000 fans to a Facebook page she has collaborated on called “Teach Me How to Drive So I Can Protect Myself.”

During a second turn at the wheel, she was arrested. After nine days — and a groundswell of protest — she was released from jail.

Alsharif remains active in the women’s rights movement and has broadened her campaign to focus on guardianship annulment and family protection as well as driving rights. She has founded several groups throughout Saudi Arabia with the title “My rights, my dignity.”

A technology consultant, she is the first female Saudi specialist in information security. She earned a bachelor of science degree in computer science at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In 2012 she was honored with the Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent, named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World and Newsweek’s Top 150 Fearless Women of the World, and was also named one of the Top 100 Powerful Arab Women by ArabianBusiness.com. Learn more.

Co-sponsoring her visit are the Bates Department of Anthropology, the Program in Women and Gender Studies and the college divisions of social sciences and humanities.