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Saudi women take the wheel

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Saudi women take the wheel

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In a few short months, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to take the wheel, but first they have to obtain a driving licence.

Female-only universities across Saudi Arabia are expected to offer women full driving courses.

For most of these young women the hour long training is the first time they've ever sat in the driver's seat and the move will bring some much needed independence.

"It's such an empowering step towards empowering women," says Joanna al-Fattani who is learning to drive ahead of the lifting of the ban. "It's such an important announcement... now is the right time to do it."

For many women, commuting to work or running basic errands requires a husband or son who can make the drive. And the move represents a real step forward for women's rights.

"I felt out of place, I've never sat on that side of the car," says Sara Ghouth, learner driver. "Usually I always sit in the back or on the right side, but it felt good. You feel, like, in control."

The ban on driving was one of the most visible forms of discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia, where guardianship laws still give men the final say on whether a woman can travel abroad, obtain a passport or marry.

The Saudi king's 32-year-old son and heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has pushed through a number of other reforms to relax some of the country's ultra conservative rules, including allowing women into stadiums to watch sports, bringing back musical concerts and promising a return of movie theatres this month after a more than three-decade ban.