Cab-hail­ing com­pany Ca­reem launches women driv­ers in con­ser­va­tive Pak­istan

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

KARACHI: Taxi-hail­ing ser­vice Ca­reem in­tro­duced women driv­ers in Pak­istan yes­ter­day, a rare ini­tia­tive in a deeply con­ser­va­tive Mus­lim coun­try where women ac­count for only 22 per­cent of the work­force. Ca­reem has a larger mar­ket share than ri­val Uber in most of the 32 cities in the Mid­dle East, North Africa and Pak­istan re­gion in which it op­er­ates. Now it has a new idea for Pak­istan: taxis driven by women, who will pick up both male and fe­male cus­tomers. The start-up op­er­ates in the Pak­istani cities of La­hore, Is­lam­abad and Karachi. “We want to give women the same op­por­tu­ni­ties and the same chance that men have of lev­er­ag­ing our plat­form to gen­er­ate healthy in­come,” said Ca­reem’s Pak­istan Gen­eral Man­ager Ahmed Us­man. Us­man said seven women driv­ers had qual­i­fied to join the fleet but ap­pli­ca­tions were open and the com­pany hoped more would ap­ply.

Zahra Ali, 30, heard about Ca­reem from a friend and thought it would be an “hon­or­able” way to sup­port her two chil­dren, who she is rais­ing alone since the death of her hus­band two years ago. She had just enough money to buy a car and got her driv­ing li­cense this year. When Ali ap­plied to be a Ca­reem driver a few months ago, she was told there was no pro­vi­sion for women driv­ers. Then Ca­reem called back with good news. “The only skill I know is driv­ing,” Ali told Reuters at her home in the city of La­hore. “Now I can raise my chil­dren hon­or­ably, I can give my chil­dren a good ed­u­ca­tion.”

‘Women are not weak’

Launched in Dubai in 2012, Ca­reem has a global force of 90,000-plus driv­ers and more than four mil­lion users reg­is­tered through its mo­bile app. In the swel­ter­ing south­ern city of Karachi, among Ca­reem’s largest mar­kets, de­mand for se­cure taxis is par­tic­u­larly strong among women, Us­man said. “If an or­ga­ni­za­tion is of­fer­ing se­cu­rity for women ... nat­u­rally that is very im­por­tant,” said driver Aa­sia Ab­dul Aziz, 46, when asked why she chose to work for Ca­reen.

“Es­pe­cially in a city like Karachi where no work can be done in the ab­sence of proper se­cu­rity.” Aziz said she had worked long hours at a beauty sa­lon for most of her life and now that her two daugh­ters were set­tled in jobs, she wanted work that al­lowed her flex­i­bil­ity. When asked about the chal­lenges of be­ing a woman driver in Pak­istan, Aziz said: “When peo­ple start ac­cept­ing some­thing, when our pub­lic re­alise that women can do a cer­tain job and are do­ing it in a com­mend­able man­ner, then I think it will not be so dif­fi­cult.”

Do­mes­tic abuse, other vi­o­lence and eco­nomic dis­crim­i­na­tion make Pak­istan the world’s third-most-dan­ger­ous coun­try for women, a 2011 Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion ex­pert poll showed. About 500 women are killed in Pak­istan ev­ery year at the hands of rel­a­tives over per­ceived dam­age to fam­ily “honor” that can in­volve elop­ing, frat­er­niz­ing with men or any other in­frac­tion against con­ser­va­tive val­ues. “One must face prob­lems bravely,” Ali said in La­hore. “Women are not weak; it is our so­ci­ety which por­trays them as weak. One can­not move for­ward with fear.”

— AP

KABUL: An Afghan money changer (sec­ond from right) counts a pile of Pak­istani cur­rency ban­knotes at a money ex­change mar­ket in Kabul, Afghanistan. Afghans are in­creas­ingly un­cer­tain about their fu­ture, less con­fi­dent in their gov­ern­ment and more pes­simistic than be­fore on is­sues such as se­cu­rity, cor­rup­tion, and ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment, ac­cord­ing to the an­nual sur­vey by the San Fran­cisco-based Asia Foun­da­tion re­leased yes­ter­day.

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