NEW YORK - Online taxi-hailing service Uber will give Saudi Arabian women lifts to polling stations for free on Saturday to help boost female participation at the first elections in the deeply conservative Islamic kingdom open to female voters.
Saudi Arabian women are both running for election and voting for the first time in local elections in what is viewed as a pigeon step towards gender equality in the autocratic nation where women are still legally barred from driving.
The free service to take women to vote is a joint effort between US-based tech company Uber and Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women, a Saudi women's empowerment group.
Uber has proved popular with women in the wealthy desert state to get around amid limited public transportation and general unease about the safety of taxis, said Al-Nahda's Chief Executive Rasha Alturki.
"We needed to play a role because we found this really empowering to women," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "With regards to Uber itself ... it's good for our cause because it helps women get out and vote."
The initiative is part of a wider campaign by Al-Nahda to get Saudi women to vote and to campaign for gender equality.
Saudi Arabia is the only country that bars women from driving and requires them to have a male "guardian" who can stop them traveling, marrying, working and from some medical procedures.
Saudi Arabia is the last country in the world to allow women to vote except for the Vatican City where male cardinals elect the pope.