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Careem and Uber have disrupted the Pakistani transport industry since their inception. People who had totally lost faith in the pathetic public transport system of Pakistan finally found themselves hailing taxis now called “Taking a Careem” or “Riding on Uber”. The most benefitted segment of the society through this venture was women. I remember when I went to university and used public buses, harassment, non availability of buses, long routes were major issues . The women would often depend upon fathers or brothers for conveyance as majority of the families in Pakistan own a single car usually used by the male head of the family.
Last year, before these companies had started its operations in Pakistan, I got a call from a friend who is a student at a renowned engineering university. She called me saying that yesterday she had an interview for internship at a renowned multinational in SITE area and it went really well. However, in the end they asked her how she got to SITE area and when she replied by changing four buses, they were a little put off. She was asked how she would manage to come and go every day. She replied it was the only mode of transport she had and that deterred them even further. From their expressions, she concluded that she was not getting that internship just because of the issue of transport.
She is a very career oriented girl and had no problem reaching the SITE area through four buses but at the same time she was also scared herself as when she was returning home, she sensed two boys following her. The organization also had implicitly stated that they would hire females with their own pick and drop or males only.
Non availability of safe public transport is a humongous issue in Karachi for women and many talented females are not able to work just because of this reason as it is not easy to travel in this huge metropolis without your own car.
For females in Pakistan who wish to work and if they overcome family attitudes, discouragement from relatives, restrictions from in laws or husband the issue of non availability of safe transport rears its ugly head. And not every house has a car or a driver so sometimes women even do not turn up for interviews when they discover that the job location is at another side of the city.
I remember my first job, it was in Korangi Industrial Area. Although I was lucky enough that the organization provided a pick and drop service but I clearly remember one day when the van could not come and I took a bus to that area.
My journey in the first bus from my home in Gulistan-e-Johar to Nipa was uneventful as it is a safe route. However, when I descended at Korangi Industrial Area, I felt strange. I could see no women bar a few covered in abayas from head to toe, although it was around 9:00 AM. Only some laborers were walking towards the factories from the bus stop. I chastised myself internally for not taking an off and increased my pace. A dark man in a white shalwar kameez started walking beside me and as I practically ran and neared the gate of the factory I worked for, I heard him saying ke,
“Tera baap kuch nahi kehta jo esay kapray phen kar bahir nikalti hay.”
“Doesn’t your father say anything when you wear such clothes and go out?”
I was wearing a long shirt and trousers and even had put a dupatta over my head considering the environment. The incident left me scared and shaking for hours.
My second job did not provide transport and my parents were totally against going in buses so after a lot of searching and getting help from the women in the organization, I managed to find a van which would pick and drop me right on time. By my third job, I had earned enough to buy a car myself and afford a driver.
After the advent of Careem and Uber, even if my driver does not turn up, I can get to office on time. The tracker through which a ride can be tracked, knowing the details of the captain ensure safety like no other mode of transport.
However, the government has now announced that Careem and Uber will be banned. This move will deprive women of a respectable and safe mode of transport and many brilliant and qualified women will be forced to stay at home because traveling in public buses daily is a mammoth task in itself.
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