A Pakistani woman, fed up with being groped and harassed by male auto-rickshaw drivers, has launched her own service exclusively for female passengers and drivers in her home city of Lahore - with just the one rickshaw on the road so far.
Zara Aslam, President of Pakistans non-profit Environment Protection Fund, said she once narrowly escaped kidnapping by a rickshaw driver when she was a student, which triggered the idea of launching her Pink Rickshaw service.
Pakistan is notorious for sexual abuse of women, euphemistically known as Eve-teasing. Offenders often go unpunished within a legal system that can treat the victims as the guilty party.
Women over here face a lot of harassment when they go out into the public spaces and they want to use public transport. So, its not really available, and what is available is very risky. So they get harassed when they are waiting for a bus or a rickshaw or a taxi. Taxi is an absolute no no because it is considered even more unsafe, Aslam said at her home in Lahore, showing off her first rickshaw.
Aslam said her Pink Rickshaw service was another step towards the financial and professional empowerment of women, which would also enable them to earn a decent living.
The plan is to have at least 25 up and running by the end of the year and with one vehicle costing 300,000 rupees (about £2,000, $3,000), Aslam said she is looking out for sponsors.
So we are reaching out and we are saying, Hey guys, this is a great initiative. Please sponsor a few rickshaws so that we can enable these women. Now then, these women will get the rickshaws and they will have to then (pay) two easy instalments and pay back for the rickshaws so we can re-invest that money and get more women on the road, she said, adding that the government has not offered any assistance.
Aslam said she is optimistic about the future of the women-only transport service in the city.
The women love it. I mean, I cannot tell you that it has already created, or broken that ice, that whole stigma of a woman driver, because they see me drive a rickshaw, they see her drive a rickshaw, we have another lady with us. They see her drive a rickshaw. Its all over the news, Aslam said.
She added that they will also teach the women how to drive and help them get their driving license.