An Ottawa man is hoping to set up a women-only cab service in Kabul, Afghanistan that would help women avoid the problem of harassment and safety concerns when they’re trying to move about the city.
“Almost eight months ago I opened an NGO here in Kabul,” Reshad Nazarzai says, from Kabul. “I’ve been approached by so many women, they come from underprivileged communities, and they want me to give them a job or support them financially. … I had this idea of hiring women as cab drivers so they can find a meaningful way of earning income.”
Nazarzai is looking to raise money through a GoFundMe campaign to help purchase five cars and train the first five drivers. Nazarzai has lived in Ottawa since 2009, but spoke to Ottawa Matters from Kabul, where he has been working on his NGO.
The idea kills two birds with one stone. On the one hand, it represents a form of financial independence for women in Kabul. Nazarzai says that the income would amount to roughly $200 per month for the women — maybe not a lot by Canadian standards, but certainly enough to help support their families. On the other, Nazarzai hopes that it will make for a safer travel option for women.
“Harassment is a big issue here in Kabul right now. Most of the women who travel around, they get harassed, either by the drivers or the passengers they commute with,” says Nazarzai. “This is the best way to help these women who are looking for a job or looking for some sort of financial support, and in the meantime be part of the solution to a very big problem in Kabul.”
The project is administered by volunteers at the moment, meaning that all money raised would go to set-up costs to help the initial five drivers earn income. Nazarzai says that they are planning on purchasing their first car on March 19, and are hoping to have their cabs running by March 22, the Novruz holiday that celebrates the Persian New Year.
Women don’t usually drive in Afghanistan, especially outside of the urban areas of the country. “We have asked the agency that issues drivers’ license, they say it’s very rare. They haven’t given us a number, but they say it’s very rare,” says Nazarzai. “These are the only women taking driving lessons right now. It’s very rare.”
Nazarzai says that the introduction of a cab service that is top-to-bottom women-only, that they will help make women safer. “The environment, it’s kind of hostile, they just stay home,” he says. “By providing this service that’s women only…we’ll make them feel safe.”
The campaign is hoping to raise $12,500, and needs just under $10,000 to meet its goal.