LAHORE, Pakistan, March 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
W omen in Pakistan's commercial hub Karachi are set to ride taxis
driven by women in an initiative to protect female customers
from the sexual harassment they commonly face when travelling
around the teeming city.
From Thursday, women will be able to call the cab service --
called Pink Taxi -- by phone, a mobile app, SMS or simply by
hailing one on the street, said Ambreen Sheikh, who is launching
the service with her husband Zahid Sheikh.
"Our pilots (drivers) wear a pink scarf and black coat as
their uniform. They include housewives, young women and
students," Sheikh told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone
after the soft launch of the service.
Commuting in the sweltering city of 20 million is often an
ordeal for women. A report by Karachi's Urban Resource Center
found most female commuters experience some form of sexual
harassment while using public transport.
Noor Jehan, a newly recruited Pink Taxi driver, first worked
as a maid and then as a driver for her female employer. She said
there was a need for such a service as most women "think thrice"
before getting in a vehicle driven by a man.
The majority of women in conservative Pakistan do not
participate in the workforce, with a lack of safe transportation
one of the main obstacles, according to a study by the
International Labour Organisation.
Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, minister for transport in Sindh
province where Karachi is located, acknowledged that women faced
hostility and harassment when using public transport.
"Having a mode of public transport catering to them alone
can solve many of their transport issues," he said on Pakistani
But Zebunnisa Burki, a Karachi-based journalist, said many
women in the city cannot afford to take taxis.
"Women-focused transport initiatives are important in that
they serve a growing demographic of mobile women," she said by
"I do feel, though, that such ventures will still not cater
to a large number of working women who go out to work daily ...
since such women will not be able to afford relatively pricey
fares in these private cabs."
Sheikh said the Pink Taxi service would be extended to the
cities of Lahore and Islamabad in the next three to four months,
followed by other parts of the country.
That would be welcomed by Kainat Chaudhry, a content writer
with an IT firm in Lahore who uses auto rickshaws or taxis to
get to work.
"A woman cannot sit in a taxi driven by a male driver and
start a casual conversation without the fear of it being
mistaken for some sort of inclination towards him," she said.
"The taxi driver reserves the right to set the rear-view
mirror to scan whatever you are wearing - the stress makes one
cringe and hide in the corners of the taxis away from his gaze."
(Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters
Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers
humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, resilience and
climate change. Visit news.trust.org)