Women drivers gear up

Posted: জানুয়ারি 28, 2009 in Women Rights

The age-old stereotype about “dangerous” women drivers is shattered and more and more women now take to the road.

Many have taken up driving as a profession and are ready to face oddities head-on.

“By nature, women drivers are more caring about their job and they put their hearts to their job,” says AKM Ahmedul Hoq, general manager of the Transport Service Department of Care Bangladesh.

“It was not the norm to hire women drivers before — for homes or organisations.”

Women drivers for Care drive sedans, three-tonne vehicles, pickups and microbuses. They work for offices both in the city and the districts of Chittagong, Sylhet, Mymensingh, Sherpur, Tangail and Sunamganj.

Ahmedul says women drivers are generally more law-abiding than their male counterparts. Secure and honest.

Vehicle owners feel more at peace with women drivers because most do not demonstrate risk-taking behaviour.

Care, a nongovernmental organisation, started training women drivers in 2003 to support the socially and economically vulnerable women in society. The organisation has since trained up to 46 women and employed 22 within Care itself. Ten more women are appointed by BRAC, another nongovernmental organisation.

Despite motivational efforts, women drivers have not yet been appointed for private home use, says the official.

Businessman Shahidul Islam says: “I cannot employ a woman driver because of social stigmas associated with the matter.”

Farzana Shimu has been working as a driver for Care since 2006. She can efficiently drive four-wheelers in Kishoreganj and many other districts.

“Most people on the streets stare at me, seeing a woman driver at the wheels. Male drivers in new areas also try to annoy me by barring my way. Although people once discouraged me to drive, later they accepted the fact readily and now they pray for my travels,” Shimu says

Several international and nongovernmental organisations in the country believe women drivers are by and large reliable, disciplined, assertive but less prone to dishonesty than men.

Among all the drivers of Care, a woman was awarded the best driver title in 2007, on the basis of her approach to passengers, maintaining driving rules, a timely response to work and smartness,” says Ahmedul.

Mohammed Ashik Mia, a BRAC official, says the organisation employs women drivers as part of its women empowerment initiatives.

Women drivers have been working for the organisation for over a year. They drive light vehicles like pickups, microbuses and sedans. To ensure security, the organisation does not allow them to drive at night or on inter-district routes.

“BRAC vehicle users had initially hesitated to accept woman drivers on the busy roads of Dhaka, but later they started to feel that they are in safe hands,” Ashik Mia says.

“The performance of the female drivers are improving gradually and if we think the situation is favourable in future, we would allow them to undertake the inter-district journeys.”

Action Aid, another NGO, also employs women, who drive station wagons and sedans and work between 9:00am to 5:00pm. Sometimes they work overtime.

Men and women are equally paid here. “Our staff feel comfortable with women drivers,” says Husni Zannat, an administration officer for Action Aid.

The daily star 29.01.2009

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