On the road with one of Cairo’s first female taxi drivers

Source: BBC News, 27 Sept. 2010

Source: BBC News, 27 Sept. 2010

We cannot of course be sure if you are following all of our web of key themes that together create the bedrock of World Streets, but two of these that are most important to us are (a) the importance of “pattern change” and, of course our old friends will say, (b) the role of women as not just passive passengers in a system designed by and mainly for men, but also active drivers of the changes that we now need to put in place to have mobility systems which are both sustainable and just as well as efficient. With this in view, let’s share with you this morning  a very short video just in from the BBC in which one of Cairo’s new female taxi drivers shares with us some of her views on her job and the attitudes it evokes in the people around on the street.

For years all the taxi drivers who worked Cairo’s notoriously packed streets were men but now eight women have broken the monopoly. While they have faced opposition from some more conservative Egyptians, they have proved a hit with many women passengers, who say they feel safer in their cabs.

Driver Enas Hammam let BBC News ride along in her cab for a day.

* Click here for video: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11406383

(With kind thanks to the redoubtable Gail Jennings, editor of Mobility mag in South Africa for the good heads-up.)

10 thoughts on “On the road with one of Cairo’s first female taxi drivers

  1. A good idea to pay attention to these taxidrivers!
    Some complementary remarks:
    * In 1992 the Egyptian newspaper ‘Al Ahram’ published the article “Crashing the gates of male dominance”, with pictures of a female butcher and a female taxidriver. I lived there at the time, working on my MA in Human Geography ‘Gender and the use of space in a popular area in Cairo’. I suppose the woman on the picture in 1992 was not the first female taxi driver. The article did not claim that. The sad thing is that there were already female taxidrivers back in 1992 and there are still so little of them now that it seems that they have to reinvent this job for women. It would be less of a struggle for them if they knew there had been others before and that they are not weird or bad women.
    * I do not know the siuation in Cairo right now, but in 1992 there were also special wagons for women in the metro. I was happy to use them. They were less packed and more fun.
    * In my city Tilburg, the Netherlands, there is a company that runs Pink Lady
    Cab (www.pinkladycab.nl). Here too, women like to have a female driver, so they feel safer and more convenient. You might not be aware of the sarcasm that Dutch people have spread about this initiative, stating this type of cabs is out of date. The succes of the company is that they also started in Den Haag and Utrecht…
    * In more and more cities in the world there are Lady Cabs and I think it is a very good idea! Off course, all men need to learn to deal with women in a respectful way. But the truth is that a group of men do not do that and women all over the world should have the right to choose a safe and convenient type of transport.

  2. Dear Angela, Thanks so much for that great and timely commentary. I am kind of meta-aware of ladies (or pink) taxis, such as those that recently hit the streets in Beirut, but I think it would be a great idea if we could somehow publish a piece that takes a look at this seemingly minor but really highly indicative social-cultural issue. Would you be interested in taking a swat at this? Or can you recommend others who might wish to help us all better understand these issues? Again, kindest thanks. Eric Britton

  3. Women taxi drivers face bumpy road in Bahrain

    Women in Bahrain are increasingly taking up traditionally “male” jobs, but they face an uphill struggle against the country’s more conservative residents. Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra took a ride with one of Bahrain’s female taxi drivers and found that her drive for change is still facing some obstacles.

    Women taxi drivers face bumpy road in Bahrain

  4. Dawafhuti Bhutia, first women taxi driver in Sikkim


    GANGTOK: Dawafhuti Bhutia from Kabi Tingda in North Sikkim has become the first woman taxi driver in the State.

    Informing this in a press statement, Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) party has termed Mrs. Bhutia’s achievement as bringing Chief Minister Pawan Chamling’s message of self-sustainability into a reality.

    Kabi-Tingda MLA Tinley Tshering Bhutia has informed about this today to the party head office, states the SDF release.

    The party reminded that the Chief Minister had been laying stress on the empowerment of Sikkimese women and was working towards bringing up the Sikkimese women in every sphere.

    It is due to his inspiration that Mrs. Bhutia has given an example of becoming self-sustainable, said SDF.

    Mrs. Bhutia is also an active member of the SDF party. She hails from Nabey Shotak area of Kabi Tindga constituency in North Sikkim and had taken up taxi driving as a profession from February 3.

    “Mrs. Bhutia has become the first women taxi driver in the State”, said SDF.

    PHOTO : The first female taxi driver in Sikkim

  5. Lebanon – Pink Taxis for Ladies – Only

    A taxi firm in Lebanon has unveiled a new concept geared toward women, complete with a fleet of pink cars and pink-attired female drivers ready to keep the sexes apart.

    “Initially, I thought I would have a rough time finding female taxi drivers given that in Lebanon this is a man’s job,” said Nawal Yaghi Fakhri, owner of “Taxi Banet” or “Taxi for Women” which was launched yesterday.

    The initiative, the first of its kind in Lebanon, has won the backing of the tourism ministry keen to cater to a growing clientele of wealthy female tourists from conservative Muslim countries in the Gulf region.

    This is the second such company to open in the Middle East after the United Arab Emirates,” Lina Ghanem, a spokeswoman at the tourism ministry, told AFP.

    The company’s drivers will only serve women.

    The idea, however, has not gone down well with some. “This is what you call sexual discrimination,” joked Jad Fakhoury, a Lebanese businessman who attended the launch ceremony.

    To contact Banet Taxi – 70 286 896 or 04 419 006

    Source: http://theinnercircle.wordpress.com/2009/03/12/lebanese-pink-taxis-for-females-only/

  6. Women taxi drivers make their way to Indian roads – video

    Women in India are choosing to make a living driving cabs. Authorities say they want at least 500 lady drivers before the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Dehli. But little is being done to make the roads and their male counterparts friendlier.

    Delhi’s roads are notorious for rash driving and poor traffic discipline. But it’s overcoming India’s tradition of male-only taxi drivers that’s proved the biggest barrier to women like Suchita Jaiswal joining that profession.

    Six months ago she was a housewife. But Suchita wanted to learn how to drive, and is now one of twenty women in the city proudly driving cabs.

    “Driving here is not easy, it’s a challenge. On the road, some men misbehave with us, while others compliment us. But we manage. We ignore the men who try to intimidate us,” says Suchita, who now woks for the Forshe taxi service.

    This taxi service was recently launched in Delhi to cater especially for women. It gives female passengers added peace of mind.

    Safety is a concern for the women drivers too. A Delhi-based NGO has started a two-month program that trains girls from poor families to become drivers. The trainees are learning self-defense techniques to better protect themselves on the roads.

    Rubina Khan, 19, found this changed the way she drives:

    “I used to be very scared while driving, that someone would hit the car or harass me. But now I drive very confidently, and don’t let other drivers intimidate me. This self-defense training has helped me a lot – if a man harasses me, I slap him. I’m not scared now.”

    Convincing girls from poor families to come forward is the biggest stumbling block. In India’s middle class, women have been driving a long time, but for poor families, letting their daughters go out to work as a driver is an alien concept.

    Twenty- year-old Chandni refused to take up stereotypically ‘female’ work like sewing or cooking. She was lucky as her family was supportive. Her father Pyarelal overcame his initial skepticism and gave her his blessing.

    “In my family, no girl is allowed to do a man’s job. So I was scared in the beginning to tell my father. But I plucked up the courage to tell him. He was very supportive, and has been my biggest support till now,” she said.

    Still, many male cabbies in Delhi are convinced women aren’t good enough drivers. Taxi driver Sohan Singh is not at all complimentary of his female colleagues.

    “Ten per cent of women drivers drive properly, but the remaining 90 per cent don’t know how to drive at all. They don’t follow the rules and drive in the centre of the road. You can keep blowing your horn, but they won’t give way,” he says.

    Criticism like that doesn’t deter girls like Chandni. She’s applied for a commercial license to work as a driver. Earning 100 dollars a month means she could then take control of her life, and follow her own road.

  7. And finally from me on this today on this I believe truly fascinating and germane topic, Google provides its usual rich source on this subject: I did well with “women taxi driver” (1060 hits) .

  8. Well, after all these examples; what more can I do for you? I am happy to have inspired you!
    In a few weeks time I will publish an essay on gender & cycling for I-CE, that makes a nice link with this topic (together with M.Fernanda Porras from Ecuador and Claire Stoscheck from the US). I will be happy to send you more info about that.
    And from there give the topic more depth?
    Best wishes, Angela

  9. There are pockets of women who drive transit mini-buses in Lagos,Nigeria.They ply feeder routes,not the main arterial roads.Also, there are some, although ‘weird’ who serves as conducts on the popular ‘Molue’ buses.

    However, if the public transport sector can be well organised, whereby operatives are well renumerated and even pensionable on the job, i believe more women will like to join the sector, considering the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria, as well as in other developing countries of the world.In other words, if public transport can be well organised in developing countries, as it were in developed countries, it would help in realising one of the MDG goals-poverty alleviation through employment generation.


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