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Exclusively for women: Goodbye harassment, hello Basanti Express!

KARACHI: The words “Basanti Express” will adorn the buses of the new service that will run solely for women in Karachi, revealed Abdul Qadir Bullo, the president of the Social Research and Development Organisation (SRDO). He was speaking at an awareness programme at the NEPA Chowrangi on the occasion of International Women’s Day on Saturday.

The aim of the programme was to raise public awareness towards the issue of harassment of women on buses.

“Women are often subjected to harassment in public buses as the reserved compartment for women is mostly occupied by men. Most of the time, only a single seat is available out of the dozen reserved for women,” said Ayesha Ijlal, a final-year student at Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology. She related her experiences of harassment and stressed that people should be made aware of the issue so they learn to respect women.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, traffic police SSP Masooma Changezi, said, “Travel for women in public transport, especially in Karachi, is an arduous ordeal. The foul-mouthed drivers and conductors and the shameless stares of other commuters make travel a painful experience for women.” She added, however, that the incidence of harassment cases had reduced considerably with increasing awareness of International Women’s Day in Pakistan

Speaking about the new bus service, Bullo believed that everyday travel should not be the dreadful experience that it had become for women. The new bus service will have a female conductor and driver. The drivers are currently undergoing training, after which the service will be made operational within two months’ time.

For the new service, Daewoo has provided the buses in collaboration with NGO, ‘Naya Jeevan’. The service would include five 70-seater Daewoo buses as well as five smaller Metro buses. The provincial government has approved the route of the service from Surjani town to Abdullah Shah Ghazi.

Inspiring Change

The United Nations’ theme for the 104th International Women’s Day 2014 was ‘Inspiring Change’. “Keeping in line with the theme, we hope the new service will be able to effect a positive change in the lives of young women who wish to go out of their homes and achieve success,” Bullo explained. Speaking about the lack of provision of basic rights for women, Ijlal said, “When I was applying for admissions for a civil engineering degree, many people discouraged me by saying that it was a male-dominated field. I went ahead and did it anyway because nothing anyone says can stop me from achieving my goals.

At the event, a tribute was presented to SSP Changezi for her services to the traffic police department. “Women can achieve anything if given the chance,” she said.

Express Tribune