By SHAZIA HASAN
When Noor Jehan’s husband passed away five years ago, she was left alone to fend for herself and two little boys.
“I had only studied up to the fifth grade and didn’t know what to do till a friend of my father’s taught me how to drive,” she said while talking to Dawn.
Today, Noor Jehan is one of many women-exclusive cab drivers or pilots with Paxi Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd, which were launched in the city on Wednesday.
Kiran Rao, another Paxi pilot, said that she was a civil engineering student. “My father taught me how to drive five years ago. Working as a cab driver will be great for me as it will help me continue with my education,” she said.
“My parents are also happy that this is a safe way to earn money as there are no men involved,” she added.
Another Paxi pilot, Farzana Taqi, said that she had done her matriculation and did not want to depend on anyone.
“I have three brothers, one of them taught me how to drive and all of them encourage me to go out in the world and do something,” she said, adding that “looks like I’m going to be doing just that.”
At their launch on Women’s Day, Paxi’s pilots were dressed in long black coats accessorised with pink scarves. They stood next to their pink vehicles proudly at the orientation which was held at the Boy Scouts and Girl Guide Headquarters on Wednesday. All the women had to undergo training for the job, according to their trainer Ambreen Zahid, who said that they would be driving Suzuki Every Vans and Nissan Clippers.
“The cars are all automatic and the trainees were used to changing the gears manually. So that took a bit of getting used to,” she said, adding that all of Paxi’s pilots had also been trained in handling different situations including emergencies, for which they were taught first aid.
Paxi Pakistan’s CEO Sheikh Mohammad Zahid said that he was glad that they were unveiling this service “for women and by women” on International Women’s Day. Thanks to Paxi, he said, women will no longer have to share space in public transport with strange men. He added that when women decided to step out of their homes, “this will no longer be an issue for them to hold back or think twice”.
Sindh Minister for Transport and Mass Transit Syed Nasir Hussain Shah was present at the event as the chief guest. Lauding the women-exclusive cabs, he said that it was a great idea and the service should be expanded to other cities of Sindh and the rest of the country. He added that the Sindh government was ready to lend its support to the initiative.
Karachi’s Deputy Mayor Dr Arshad Vohra was the guest of honour. He said that Paxi was a great service in view of the increasing numbers of working women in the city.
The cab service, which also includes regular taxis for everyone and motorcycle taxis for single commuters, can be accessed through a smartphone app, call centre, SMS or by hailing one on the road.