Fe­male mo­tor­taxi drivers in the fast lane

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - World - AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE XIN­HUA

BANGKOK — Hair pulled back tightly as she lounges on her red scooter, Ar is a rare sight among the male-dom­i­nated ranks of Bangkok’s mo­tor­taxi rid­ers ply­ing their trade in the Thai cap­i­tal.

A vet­eran of seven years who works in the bustling On Nut district, Ar is among the thou­sands of women drawn to the work as gen­der roles in Thai­land evolve, at­tracted by the flex­i­ble hours, de­cent wages, and a sense of au­ton­omy.

She wel­comes the changes as of­fer­ing a chance for women to gain more in­de­pen­dence.

“I am glad there are more op­por­tu­ni­ties for women to be­come ‘mo­tor­sai’,” she said, re­fer­ring to the road war­riors whose dis­tinc­tive or­ange jack­ets line the streets.

“A new gen­er­a­tion of women now have to be tough and brave.”

Al­though no of­fi­cial fig­ures are avail­able, ob­servers say more women are choosing to brave the risky traf­fic-logged roads and dis­crim­i­na­tion for the flex­i­ble work sched­ule, which al­lows them own­er­ship over their lives.

Chaloem Chang­tong­madun, pres­i­dent of Thai­land’s Mo­tor­cy­cle Taxi As­so­ci­a­tion, said that work­ing as a mo­tor­sai of­fered women a level of free­dom not avail­able in of­fices, shops or fac­to­ries.

“Women don’t find the work con­ve­nient when they be­come preg­nant, take ma­ter­nity leave or visit their home­town,” he said.

“They feel a closer con­nec­tion with their fam­i­lies than when they worked in com­pa­nies.”

He be­lieves women make up roughly 30 per­cent of Bangkok’s 98,000 reg­is­tered drivers, al­though oth­ers say the num­bers are prob­a­bly lower.

In many parts of the Thai work­force gen­der ex­pec­ta­tions are still at play, with women typ­i­cally fill­ing ser­vice in­dus­try jobs and cler­i­cal po­si­tions.

“Thai­land still has very bla­tant gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion,” said Kyoko Kusak­abe, a pro­fes­sor at Bangkok’s Asian In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy where she stud­ies women’s em­ploy­ment in the in­for­mal econ­omy.

Women are more likely to take up low-paid work in the in­for­mal econ­omy while men “stay unem­ployed to look for a bet­ter job”, she ex­plained.

Thai­land also has one of

those in Rome — are by most mea­sures safer to­day than they were one or two decades ago, due mostly to im­prove­ments in au­to­mo­biles. But the si­t­u­a­tion in Rome has im­proved slower than in most big cities, an­a­lysts said.

“There is no sin­gle way to re­duce the num­ber of fa­tal­i­ties dra­mat­i­cally,” Gian­luca Di As­cenzo, pres­i­dent of Co­da­cons, a con­sumer ad­vo­cacy group, said in an in­ter­view.

“The unique prob­lems Rome has have been get­ting worse for years. They can’t be re­versed from one day to the next.”

Both Gior­dani and Di As­cenzo said the most step the city gov­ern­ment can take is to put more po­lice of­fi­cers on the streets.

“More po­lice would mean pedes­tri­ans would be more the high­est num­bers of road deaths in the world, and Bangkok’s mo­tor­taxi drivers em­brace a life on the edge to pro­vide a trans­port life­line, weav­ing skill­fully be­tween long lines of cars.

As the in­dus­try has be­come more reg­u­lated, the drivers are now less vul­ner­a­ble to abuse from crim­i­nals de­mand­ing monthly pay­ments.

Mo­tor­taxi queues — known as “wins” — also func­tion in a more demo­cratic fash­ion, like hold­ing elec­tions of lead­ers and al­low­ing mem­bers to vote on cer­tain de­ci­sions.

How­ever, most of the women still re­quire the sup­port of a male rel­a­tive in order to join a line, where there is usu­ally a lot of com­pe­ti­tion.

Buay­loy Supha­sorn, 53, started 17 years ago and is con­sid­ered a pi­o­neer as one of the first fe­male drivers on her win.

“Some men didn’t want to sit on my bike be­cause I’m a woman,” she said, adding that they thought she would be a bad driver. “But now things have changed.” likely to use cross­walks, drivers would drive slower, and cars would be less likely to dou­ble park, which cre­ates ob­sta­cles for drivers and can force pedes­tri­ans to walk in the street,” Gior­dani said.

An­gelo Bonelli, pres­i­dent of the Ital­ian Green Fed­er­a­tion, a po­lit­i­cal group that lists road safety among its cen­tral pri­or­i­ties, said Ro­man cul­ture is part of the prob­lem as well.

“The fact that there is lit­tle en­force­ment on the streets and few fines means that Ro­man drivers can do as they please, whether that is dou­ble park­ing, ig­nor­ing traf­fic sig­nals, driv­ing fast, and that makes it dan­ger­ous for ev­ery­one,” Bonelli said.

“Some­times it can seem like the wild West out there.”


Bri­tain’s Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sus­sex, ex­change the tra­di­tional hongi greet­ing with Maori war­riors dur­ing a wel­come cer­e­mony at Gov­ern­ment House in Welling­ton, New Zealand, on Sun­day.

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