PESHAWAR: Mardan, Pakhtunkhwa’s second largest city, got the first-of-its-kind women-only transportation facility on Monday, making its female residents enjoy a sense of feminism with pride
“I believe the women-only buses will make it much easier for us to commute around the city,” said Saiqa Shad, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University, complaining that most of the time men occupied seats in public transport making it an uneasy journey for women.
The district administration of Mardan launched the “Pink Bus” service in collaboration with UN Women, a global organization dedicated to gender equality.
According to Deputy Commissioner Usman Mehsud, seven buses have been launched in the district as part of the project to cater to both women and children.
“The facility is meant for every woman in this city,” he told Arab News. “However, working women are likely to benefit more since many of them commute on a daily basis and rely on public transportation for that.”
Different bus stops have been set up across the city designated to these buses, said Mehsud.
“The service will be operated on a no-profit-no-loss basis,” he added, while acknowledging that the fare has to cover the upkeep of the buses, their fuel requirement, and the drivers’ salaries.
According to UN Women’s senior program officer, Syed Wajid, another seven of these Pink Buses will be launched in Abbottabad city on Tuesday.
“Initially, male drivers will run these buses, but they will soon be replaced by female drivers,” he said. “Unfortunately, we could not find women bus drivers at this stage.”
Asked how the Pink Buses would serve UN Women’s motto of gender equality while perpetuating segregation, he said: “There is no proper transport facility for women in these cities. If we have a project like Bus Rapid Transit in all districts, it will be an ideal option. In the absence of such an initiative, however, we have no choice but to launch this women-only service since women face multiple problems while using the ordinary city transportation system.”
Most women in rural areas of Mardan district are hesitant to travel alone in public transport without a male family member, said Anam Mazhar, a frequent commuter in the city. “This project will make us more independent,” she told Arab News. “I think it is a great step toward women empowerment in Mardan.”
Farman Khan, assistant sub-inspector in Mardan Police, told Arab News that the Pink Bus project will also bring a sharp decline in harassment cases reported in public transport.
The project launched in the interest of the female population of the district will cost $1.6 million, Hamayun Zaman, partnership specialist of the United Nations Office for Project Services, told Arab News. “This will include buses, requisite trainings and an e-ticketing system,” he said.