Aryn Baker reports for TIME:
From the outside, progress on women’s rights in the kingdom may appear to be mired in tar. After all, women are still not allowed to drive, they can’t get a job or take a loan without the permission of a male family member, and their designated male guardians, usually a husband or a father, are notified via SMS every time they leave the kingdom. But from the perspective of women inside the country, dizzying changes are afoot. For the first time, female athletes represented Saudi Arabia at the Olympics last year in London. An employment ban has been lifted for female cashiers at supermarkets, and women have taken the place of men in lingerie and cosmetic stores across the country. And in Riyadh on March 26, Cabinet ministers issued a new law making national identification cards mandatory for all women, granting them identities independent from their families and paving the way toward lifting the onerous guardianship system that treats every woman, regardless of her age, as a minor. That would be a crowning achievement for King Abdullah, who has done more for women in his eight-year reign than any monarch since his brother, King Faisal, allowed girls to go to school in 1964.