The harrowing beginning of Womenstaxi.org: In brief, a few weeks before graduation this May, a friend and I took a short taxi ride late in the evening. Upon arriving at the destination, the cabbie immediately got out of the car. To my surprise, I was unable to open my door. In those few seconds of pulling the handle with no success, my heart rate had doubled and I was ready to emit a primal scream. However, before I could, the cabbie had opened my door and explained that the child lock was broken and that the door had to be manually opened from the outside.
After exiting, my friend, witness to my panic, concluded that perhaps, I had over-reacted. But what my friend said next, was for me the epiphany that catalyzed the creation of WomensTaxi.Org. Quite frankly, she said that I would have never reacted in the same way, with blatant fear, had the driver been a woman. I don't want to get bogged down with statistics, but we live in a world, where violence against women, perpetrated by men, is far more likely to occur than violence against women perpetrated by women. The main issue that my friend had pinpointed was that as a young female traveling at night, I would have been far more at ease with a female driver rather than a male taxi driver, as the obvious likelihood of jeopardizing my safety is far less of a concern.
Consequently, the idea of women for women transportation took hold of me and I laboriously researched to find all the information available. I realized that in fact, this concept was being put into action all over the world. It began with two female entrepreneurs, who started Pink Ladies in London, UK in 2006, and was followed most recently by Teksi Wanita (Women Taxi) in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia in 2011, as a government funded effort. Scattered across the Internet were articles from almost every major American news outlet, covering stories of W4W taxi services launching in a variety of countries across the world. To be clear, women for women meaning taxi services that employ female drivers solely for female passengers.
These W4W taxi companies are responding to a simple reality that women continue to face violence, harassment, and a feeling of general unease in taxis. Moreover, the creators of these initiatives realize, that within this currently male dominated trade, there is viable business potential by including female drivers. When given the choice, there is a market of women who prefer taxi companies with female drivers. Naturally, these W4W ventures present the opportunity for women to become empowered as not only a passenger, but also a driver. This forces status quo taxi companies to hold higher standards of safety and concern for the welfare of female passengers, in order to stay competitive with the new W4W options available.
For instance, in a short video documentary from 2009 by MetropolisWebTv based in Beirut, Lebanon, a mother candidly explains why she supports and prefers local W4W company Banet Taxi (launched in 2009): "Because I get tired of male drives. They ask things like, are you engaged, married, do you have someone? They harass women [and] sometimes they are really annoying. When I took a cab, I always wore a wedding band, even before my marriage... just so that they would leave me alone."
From here, Womenstaxi.org was born.
The aim of Womenstaxi.Org is to provide a comprehensive overview of each existing W4W initiative and to consolidate it in one place. On the Global Companies section of the website, information about fourteen different companies spanning nine countries is available. Of these fourteen companies, the majority of them (nine to be specific) are pioneered by female entrepreneurs, three are government backed ventures, and one private. On the company page site, one can learn the most up-to-date information about the company: the founder, date of incorporation, website, and contact information along with a module for media coverage and video. The ultimate mission for Womenstaxi.org is to unify all global efforts for W4W taxi services by creating the first Global Women's Taxi Alliance.
W4W services empower women with the choice for welfare and comfort that provides peace of mind. At the same time, these services, which put more women on the road, are direct assaults on the male dominated transportation industry. As founder of Viira Cabs (Brave Woman Cabs) of Mumbai has said, "Driving has nothing to do with ones gender. It is a skill, you either have it or you don't." W4W companies pierce the heart of the male skewed taxi industry by showing once again, that men don't own any profession. Women can drive taxis just as well.
In the words of the founder of the Iranian company Taxi Bisim Banovan (Ladies Wireless Taxi), Mohsen Uruji, "Our agency is a symbol of freedom and democracy, not of segregation. We are providing a service for those women who choose us. It's not obligatory. The issue has nothing to do with religion or prejudice -- it's about welfare and comfort." A prominent author, Michael Kimmel (a critic of W4W taxi services) concludes that in order to truly eliminate taxi harassment we must "increase penalties for lecherous drivers, install cameras or tape recorders to provide evidentiary documentation, and to encourage women to file complaints and grievances that would lead to harsher penalties for the drivers -- loss of license, suspension, and the like." I absolutely agree that these efforts could be tenaciously effective, however, until stricter surveillance, and harsher penalties become standardized and the status quo changes, it is undeniable that W4W taxi services offer admirable pro-active business-minded solutions to concerns women globally face routinely.