First Published: 2016-12-30

'Pink taxis' challenge norms in Jordan
'Pink Taxi' service provides opportunities to women in conservative cities such as Amman, where female taxi drivers were previously unheard of.
Middle East Online

Women drivers for women passengers

AMMAN - Nisrin Akoubeh checks the oil and water before getting into her taxi and pulling into heavy traffic for another day of shuttling fellow women across the Jordanian capital.

The red-haired mother of three works a gruelling 10-hour shift in her taxi -- a rare occupation for a woman in this conservative Muslim society.

"I want to break the culture of shame and prove to Arabs and the Arab world that women are strong and are able to work in any area that could be monopolised by men," she said.

"Women have been able to drive normal cars for a long time, so why shouldn't they drive taxis?"

Akoubeh is one of a group of women who want to turn taxi driving into an acceptable profession for women, challenging Jordan's social norms.

The 31-year-old widow and former nurse drives one of a fleet of 10 "Pink Taxis" driven by women ... for women passengers.

Most of their customers are nurses on late shifts, university students or mothers whose children they shuttle to and from nursery or school.

Wearing a pink shirt and blue tie as she navigates Amman's congested roads, Akoubeh often also picks up visiting Saudi women whose husbands don't allow them to ride unaccompanied with male taxi drivers.

"I thank God that I have lots of customers," she said.

Ghena al-Asmar, a 19-year-old student who often uses the service, said she feels safer riding the women-only cars.

"When I finish my studies at university in the evening or when I leave the house at night, I prefer to take these taxis because it's a woman taking a woman somewhere," she said.

"I don't think there's any shame in a woman working as a taxi driver -- it's a profession like any other profession, and it shouldn't be limited to men," she said.

Around half a million women in Jordan have driving licences, about 20 percent of the country's total drivers, according to the national traffic department.

- Seen in a bad light -

Akoubeh said some people give her encouragement but "there is always someone to remind me that 'this is men's work and you should be in the home.'"

Jordan is relatively liberal in terms of women's rights compared to other countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia which does not allow women behind the wheel at all.

But more conservative attitudes are still common.

Mohammad al-Ahmad, a 50-year-old civil servant, said driving a taxi is not appropriate work for women.

"We live in a conservative Eastern society governed by tribal customs and traditions," he said.

"There are lots of jobs and professions women can do that fit their abilities and preserve their place in society, without them being seen in a bad light."

But Eid Abu al-Haj, head of an investment group behind a company that runs the Pink Taxi service, says encouraging women to drive is a service to society.

"Women are more careful and cause fewer accidents," he said. "By providing these cars exclusively for women, we are hoping to give women more comfort and privacy."

The service was launched on March 21, when most of the Arab world marks Mother's Day.

"We started with five cars just for women, with women drivers, and now we have 10 drivers, between 30 and 45 years old, and we're hoping to expand soon," said Abu al-Haj.

The concept has already been tried and tested in Cairo, another conservative city where women taxi drivers were previously unheard of.

Akoubeh said she has a good salary, health insurance, social security and holidays, and she can choose what hours to work.

Other taxi drivers in Amman say they take home at most 25 dinars ($35, 33 euros) a day after paying a share of their takings to the companies that own the cars.

Driving in Amman is not easy work. Home to four million people and 1.4 million vehicles including over 11,000 taxis, the city is prone to choking congestion.

"It takes a lot of concentration and care, especially during rush hours," Akoubeh said.

But she enjoys the work.

"I get to know new people every day," she said. "I enjoy my conversations with them and hearing their stories and experiences."

 

Qataris to do hajj on Saudi king expenses

Veteran crisis manager Ouyahia recalled as Algeria PM

Saudi Arabia, Iraq draw closer with wary eye on Iran

Bahrain state media accuses Qatar of trying to topple regime

Civilians stay on frontlines despite dangers in Raqa

Algeria reshuffles cabinet, nominates three new ministers

Syria rebels lose heavyweight faction

ICC orders Mali ex-jihadist pay 2.7 m euros for Timbuktu destruction

Iran’s Karroubi on hunger strike over 6-year house arrest

Libya seeks to ‘organise’ NGOs carrying migrant rescue Ops

More than one million South Sudan refugees in Uganda

Beirut, Damascus pledge to boost economic ties

Two killed on Gaza-Egypt border

Fire breaks out at UNESCO heritage site in Saudi Arabia

Iran military chief in Turkey for talks on Syrian war

Saudi Electricity announces $1.75b in international loans

Israel to strip Jazeera journalist of press credentials

Iran's Khamenei blasts US over Charlottesville

Libyan forces snub ICC over warrant for commander

Iran’s detained opposition leader starts hunger strike

Arab fighters struggle to make impact in battle for Raqa

IS suicide bombers kill seven Iraqi security personnel

Lebanon repeals 'marry your rapist' law

Qatar’s sovereign fund plans new investments despite sanctions

Turkey asks Germany to investigate 'top coup fugitive' sightings

Iran laments ‘hypocritical’ US religious freedom report

No single pattern in radicalisation of foreign fighters, says Tunisian study

Turkey tells Iraqi Kurds that referendum risks ‘civil war’

Russia hopes Iran will stick to nuclear deal

Israel demolishes home of Palestinian attacker's family

Libyan coastguard threaten migrant aid group

Tunisia foils plot to help IS seize territory

Kuwait reports second oil spill

Algeria President sacks PM after less than three months

Israel detains Islamic cleric for inciting violence

Western-backed rebels claim to shoot down Syrian jet

ICC issues arrest of Libyan National Army commander

Qatar says 'lot of time' needed to rebuild Gulf trust

Oil governor of Iraq’s Basra flees to Iran amid corruption probe

Macron tells Erdogan to release French journalist

Fatwa against Ibadi Muslims in Libya risks igniting sectarian strife

Archaeologists uncover three ancient tombs in Egypt

Turkey arrests Belgian IS member suspected of ‘planning attack’

Iraq, Saudi to reopen border crossing after 27 years

Iran parliament takes step towards easing drug laws