By Mubasher Bukhari
LAHORE, Pakistan, March 22 – Pakistan’s first women-only rickshaw service was meant to provide its staff with a new way of gaining financial independence and its passengers with the chance of a ride without being groped and harassed by male drivers.
But, after just a year in business, the “Pink Rickshaw” in the Punjabi city of Lahore, is struggling.
Help has been promised by a Scotland-based charity, run by pop star Annie Lennox, and Pink Rickshaw founder, Zar Aslam, said she hopes to get the money for ten rickshaws by September.
Aslam, who herself narrowly escaped kidnapping in a rickshaw when she was a student, told Reuters she had aimed to have 25 of the pink-and-white rickshaws on the road by mid-2016 but the manufacturers have sent only six, and three are too old to use.
“There are several women waiting to get the rickshaws,” said Aslam, who also runs the Environment Protection Fund, a Pakistani non-profit agency.
The rickshaws cost about $3,000 each, and more if you add tracking and anti-theft systems.
“The first few rickshaws we bought were expensive but now we’re looking at cheaper models,” she said.
“The only disappointment is to get the funding for more rickshaws because the demand is out there and it is just a matter of getting all the funds together,” Aslam said.
That would help women who, like Parveen Bibi, want to zip around town making a living and making life easier in a country where sexual crime is rife and often goes without being reported or punished.
Bibi is her family’s sole earner since the death of her husband, and although she only drives during the day, for safety reasons, she says customers are pleased to use the service.
“Women passengers are happy that they can now travel with a female tri-auto driver and feel comfortable,” she says.