African Start up

Tired of catcalls? Pink Taxi promises to drive women around Cairo peacefully

CNN  — 

For many women in Egypt, fending off catcalls and lewd comments is a grim routine of daily life.

According to the UN, over 99% have been victims of sexual harassment which often takes place on public transport or in cabs.

But a car service driven by women, and accepting only female passengers, is promising a secure way to travel in the Egyptian capital.

Pink Taxi’s drivers take only pre-booked rides and know how to navigate Cairo’s ferocious traffic jams – clad in fuchsia uniforms nonetheless.

Secure spaces

“I saw that society needed a safe mode of transportation for women, and I began to think what I could provide,” says Reem Fawzy, Pink Taxi’s founder.

Her drivers are required to have a university degree, speak English and have at least two years of experience driving in Cairo.

Cars are equipped with a GPS and a camera, as well as an SOS button that can stop the vehicle and alert Pink Taxi headquarters in case of an emergency.

The entrepreneur says that part of her motivation for setting up a female-only car service was to give women in Cairo more opportunities for work.

“Women can’t find jobs easily, most of the private sector and business prefer men, and there are a lot of jobs a woman can’t do,” she says.

Pink Taxi's drivers are women and only accept women as passengers.

She admits that when she first started looking for drivers she faced a backlash.

“The reaction many men had was that they didn’t like their daughters working as drivers, most professional drivers are men,” says Fawzy.

But after she advertised on TV and social media applications flooded in, and she selected 52 women who were given two months of training in traffic law and car maintenance.

Gender segregation?

However, Pink Taxi has drawn criticism from activists who think that shielding women from public spaces isn’t the answer to Egypt’s sexual harassment problem.

“I don’t think segregation will solve the issue, “says Dalia Abd El-Hameed, head of the Gender Program at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

“We have two women-only carriages on every metro line, but this never actually helps the problem of sexual harassment because when women get off they still have to walk with everyone else,” she explains.

Abd El-Hameed also says that the fact Pink Taxi’s charges higher prices than regular carriers makes it an elitist service.

“It’s a lot more expensive than a traditional taxi, so it’s not cut for the vast majority. Creating safe means of transportation just for those who can afford it is not the solution,” she adds.

But Fawzy says that her company’s prices are justified because Pink Taxi operates as a limo service, which means that the car is empty when it goes to pick up the passengers. She adds that she simply runs a business, and women have a choice to use it or not.

“If we make a law that women have to take a female only taxi then yes, that would be bad, but now we are just a service offering privacy and safety,” she says.