A study by the International Labor Organization isolated a lack of safe transportation as a major contributor to the low number of Pakistani women participating in the workforce. Pink Taxi is Pakistan’s first taxi service for women, and ‘Paxi’ aims to create a safe environment for both its female passengers and female drivers through its Pink Taxi service.
Paxi offers three services: bikes with male drivers for short distances, the Paxi Taxi with male drivers and the Pink Taxi with female drivers. Pink Taxis are Paxi’s women-exclusive car service — the cars will not pick up male passengers between the ages of 12 and 70.
Pink Taxi launched in March 2017 and has been growing in popularity. Two months after launch, the service received approximately 50-60 more requests for rides per day.
A Safe Form of Transportation
Karachi’s Urban Resource Center recently released a study that found that 55 percent of women commuting by public bus in Karachi felt uncomfortable and faced sexual harassment. Public buses have large men’s areas and small women’s areas, but separation is oftentimes not enforced.
Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, Minister for Transport in Sindh (the province where Karachi is located) supports safe alternative transportation for women. He says: “Having a mode of public transport catering to [the women] alone can solve many of their transport issues.”
Call a Cab via an App
The taxi service for women can be called with the Paxi app. To accommodate less tech-savvy customers, Pink Taxi users can also dial a call center or use SMS texting to find a car. The rides can also be hailed on the road. To make the taxis recognizable to passengers, the cars are heavily branded and drivers wear special uniforms.
In addition, Pink Taxi drivers are given free driving and self-defense lessons and extensive communication training. Female drivers might face harassment and threats on the job, but Paxi teaches its female employees how to mitigate these situations.
Cost of a Paxi
Each ride is slightly more than a traditional taxi service, with a base fare of Rs. 150 and an additional Rs. 15/km. Other taxis start at a base fare of Rs. 100. Taxis are substantially more expensive than bus fare — a one-way bus ticket costs Rs. 20.
For professional women, Pink Taxis offer a welcome alternative to male-driven taxi cabs; however, the price can exclude lower-income women who rely on the bus for their daily commute.
Paxi’s Unifying Goals
Paxi aims to bring its taxi service for women to other cities in Pakistan such as Sukkur and Peshawar — Peshawar, for instance, is deeply conservative and observes strict purdah (seclusion of women), so Paxi would be extremely useful to the women in these areas. In fact, Paxi’s founder, Shaikh M. Zahid, argues that bringing Pink Taxis to Peshawar can give the large number of highly-educated women increased mobility throughout the city. This idea is encouraged by the positive response he’s received in informal talks with religious leaders and women in the community.
For now, though, Paxi will continue increasing its fleet of women drivers in Karachi to meet growing demand, all while looking to expansions of its services in the future.
– Katherine Parks