‘Because my mother couldn't change my present, I decided 2 change my daughter's future.’ Says Manal’s Twitter profile.
Manal al-Sharif is a Saudi divorced mother of two. She is different from a majority of Saudi women because she believes in standing for her rights. In this instance the right to drive a car! Last year, she decided to take on the issue by posting on YouTube a video of herself driving the Saudi streets. Though al-Sharif was jailed for nine days and publicly shamed, she inspired a movement.
She had been due to be honored for her activism at an awards ceremony in Washington organized by Vital Voices, a US-based pressure group which campaigns for women's rights and has close ties to the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
But she wasn’t there to receive her award. 48 hours before the event, organizers were told that Ms Sharif couldn’t come. It is being rumored that she and her family have been threatened with dire consequences. Apparently her speechat the recent Oslo Freedom Forum had not sit well with the conservatives back home in Saudi Arab. The fact that 17th June marks the first anniversary of an organized "protest drive" that saw Manal and dozens of female supporters stand up for their right to drive is making the religious clerics and conservatives a bit antsy. They consider giving women this kind of freedom will lead to moral decline.
In an email to The Independent, she stressed that no threats against had come directly from members of the country's government. The Vital Voices ceremony had five "heroines" of the Arab Springnominated for the medals.
When the four other honorees were called on to the stage at the Kennedy Center Opera House, they left a gap to represent where Ms Sharif should have been standing.
But nothing has deterred these women. They have taken up social media as a tool for their struggle.