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Women's Rights Activist & Chief Information Security Officer at UNSW

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The struggle is not about driving a car, the struggle is about being in the driver's seat of your own destiny.

In May 2011, the secret police arrested Manal at two o’clock in the morning from her home and imprisoned her for the crime of “driving while female”
After international outcry, the king of Saudi Arabia issued her a pardon on the conditions of remaining silent.

Manal continued campaigning against the ban on women driving and male guardianship in her country.

The ban was lifted 3 months after publishing her best selling memoir “Daring to Drive”, making Saudi Arabia the last country on earth where women won this right.

For her activism, she was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world.

Manal is a cyber security expert and the founder of the Ethical Technologists Society and the host of Tech for Evil podcast that discusses the intersection between tech and human rights.

Named by Newsweek one of the world’s top ten digital revolutionaries and Forbe’s top 50 women in tech.

Today, Manal is living under self-imposed exile in Australia and calls Sydney her “little piece of heaven”.

Manal tells a story of bravery on how to win women rights even when living in the most masculine society on earth.

Talking Points

Empowerment & Women in Tech

Why is it important for women to acknowledge the special status they deserve in society? What difference can our actions make to the position of women now and for the future? Manal's story is about what it is like to be a working woman in a male-dominated field, globally and specifically in Saudi Arabia. She presents the challenges, facts and reality and how they can make you or break you.

Social Activism & Women’s Rights

Methods of activism will continue to evolve along with developments in culture and technology. Leveraging social media to practice social activism for social reform in correlation to women is an important tool. Manal's presentation discusses social activism in the context of Saudi and other countries in the region. Are women here still denied their basic rights to education and freedom, and face violence and abuse? What is being done about it and where does religion stand?

“The struggle is not about driving a car, the struggle is about being in the driver’s seat of our own destiny”

Manal al-Sharif reveals how women in her country are forced to be faceless, voiceless, and nameless. Al-Sharif identifies the 1979 Mecca Grand Mosque Siege as a defining event for her generation, marking the resurgence of fundamentalist Islam in Saudi Arabia. Al-Sharif reveals how exposure to the internet and images of the 9/11 terrorist attacks led her to reject fundamentalist Islam. She describes how she launched the Women2Drive campaign, which encourages Saudi women to drive in a country where it is against the law for them to operate a vehicle. But al-Sharif emphasizes that the campaign is about more than just driving a car-it is about being in the driver’s seat of her own destiny.
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