The right to safe transport
Women empowerment is about many things. The right to education, the right to work, the right to making choices, but ever since I’ve come to Bonn, I’ve been thinking of one factor that could contribute to making women more independent.
I think that one factor could be a city’s transport system. A woman, even if she is not that educated, may still be able to find work if she has access to safe means of transport. Many women in developing countries have to travel by public transport because they can’t afford to have a car. Many times women complain of men staring at them or someone following them to work. This is the reason why many parents don’t feel comfortable in sending their daughters to work. Many ambitious young girls often don’t make it to college or university simply because there is no one to take them there. Not everyone can afford a car so public transportation is the only way to go anywhere.
Where I live in Bonn, I walk for about five minutes to the train station and it takes me eight minutes to get to work. During the ride, most people around me are either reading books or listening to music. There is almost always a seat available, otherwise I stand, but no man has ever bumped into me. The trains are filled with an equal number of women. I feel safe- that’s the simplest way of putting it. I don’t need any male companion with me to travel.
Amrita, young women from Bangladesh, also feels safe using public transportation in Germany. According to her,” there is no specific bus stop in Bangladesh, a bus can stop anywhere and when you get on the bus there’s almost never a seat available which means that we stand in close proximity with men. The chances of becoming a victim of harassment are much higher”. On one of the train stations here at Bonn, I met a German woman of Indian origin while having a conversation on how mobility can bring more opportunities. She made a strong point. According to her, “In India one can’t plan anything as the buses don’t have any fixed time, it’s a privilege here in Germany that the train is always on time, there is no fear and even the bus drivers are very helpful.”
I know Pakistan cannot have bullet trains or train stations at every other place but we can still provide a safe bus service for our people. Few years ago when I didn’t know how to drive, I had the chance to travel by a bus service called “Varan” in Rawalpindi and I remember there was a special place for women in the bus where no man was allowed. It would pick up people right before our housing colony and dropped me right in front of the radio station where I was working. I traveled on it many times with my friends; it was a cheaper and respectful way of traveling.
Unfortunately, the service was stopped because of complaints related to bad driving, but if we could have those buses in the past then why can’t we have them again with better drivers and stricter management controls? The new government is ambitious in achieving its economic goals, but that’s not possible without the active participation of women who make up 50 percent of the country’s population. Many poor homes in Pakistan will be better off if women also begin working, but in our culture women would come out and work and get educated only if they are given respectful and safe transportation facilities. Mobility for me is a very important factor in empowering women, especially if we want to engage them to boost our economy.
Author: Beenish Javed
Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan
Beenish Javed is a reporter working for ARY News, Islamabad. She has been awarded a two-month long fellowship by the Friedrich Ebert foundation (FES) in Germany and is currently in DW, Bonn. You can follow Beenish on Twitter @Beenishjaved.
Date29.08.2013 | 10:06
Tagsbangladesh, Beenish Javed, developing countries, development, India, Pakistan, Transportation, Women empowerment