By Shereen Shabnam
In addition to us as Jury announcing the Women’s World Car of the Year Award 2019 at the Dubai Motor Show, we are also excited to meet with Deborah Sherwood who is currently training females to be instructors in Saudi Arabia due to the change in law that allows women to drive.
Deborah went through a selection process and was thrilled to find out that she had been selected to be part of the team of four to help further develop and implement the training program for the instructors, examiners and lecturers.
We get some insights from her before the Dubai International Motor Show begins.
When did you first venture into the world of driver training?
I trained to be an instructor at the age of 21 as my local driving school needed an female instructor. I used the income to put myself through University to become a Primary School Teacher. Both Driver Education and Primary Education have always remained my passion. Learning to drive is such an amazing life skill.
How has the Saudi experience been so far?
Honestly, amazing! I arrived with no preconceived ideas. I wanted to just experience Saudi with an open mind and heart. On first arrival I did feel a sense of culture shock but it didn’t take long to appreciate my surroundings, the people and their traditions and the sense of excitement about the vision for Saudi Arabia.
What are the challenges you face as a female driver trainer and how much support have you received from the students?
From the beginning there was a little concern about how the change in law would be accepted. It proved to be of no concern as the immense support of the public became evident. All the students have been so excited to have this opportunity they have really given their training their absolute all.
Tell us about a proud trainer moment since you arrived in Saudi?
There has been many proud trainer moments. One of the most emotional was when the initial instructors received their actual Saudi drivers’ license in preparation for 24th June 2018. Then listening to their stories and seeing the videos of them driving with their families at exactly one second after midnight. Hearing and participating in the joy was overwhelming. It was truly an honour to be part of this amazing change in the country’s history. As time goes on and you speak to many successful graduates of the driving centre you become increasingly aware of how vastly this is affecting their future in such a positive way.
What else is being done in breaking gender barriers for women drivers in Saudi Arabia?
There have been multiple awareness campaigns throughout Saudi to encourage the support of all drivers to be respectful and helpful to the addition of female drivers on the road. There are many employment opportunities available for women that require them to drive to work or drive company vehicles. It has very quickly become the norm to see both male and female drivers in all situations in the region I’m based in.
How many students are you currently training?
I myself along with 3 other assessors have been training instructors since we arrived. Our amazing instructors have gone on to teach thousands of students.
What are your key messages for the visitors to Dubai International Motor Show?
Quite simply, enjoy the show, have fun and feed the dream. But most importantly be a safe driver, drive defensively, respecting the road and other road users. Remember driving is an earned privilege.