Parisa Haidary walks away from a mini-bus after she dropped off her girls passengers in Kabul. (AFP)

Kabul: 

Parisa Haidary will get behind the steering wheel of a mini-bus, kicks off her excessive heels and with a socked foot presses the accelerator, fastidiously easing the 10-seater into Kabul’s ever-clogged visitors.

The Afghan mom, who works for a women-only bus service, smiles as different road-users — all of them males — gawp in astonishment.

“We get a lot of different reactions,” she says. “Some drivers block our way, others honk at us, some even drive alongside at the same speed when the road is clear.”

In an ultra-patriarchal society the place it stays uncommon to see a girl behind the wheel, Haidary is one among 4 drivers working for Pink Shuttle, a pilot bus programme using solely girls to ferry feminine passengers and their youngsters throughout the Afghan capital.

“I love driving and am interested in my job. The only concern we have is the security situation. We have to stay fearless,” Haidary mentioned.

The 36-year-old former beautician, who has additionally labored as a tv journalist, and her colleagues had been chosen from 100 candidates.

The primary-of-its form service helps girls navigate the numerous challenges they face getting round Kabul, the place a woeful lack of transport choices is compounded by the chance of harassment in the event that they stroll on the streets.

“We have transportation problems for women. In fact, public transportation does not exist, especially for women in Kabul,” venture coordinator Obaidullah Amiri mentioned.

Pink Shuttle is being run by Nove Onlus, an Italian non-governmental group that in flip is being supported by the Solely The Courageous basis, created by designer Renzo Rosso.

Amiri mentioned the pilot venture, which began in Could and likewise receives backing from the US Company for Worldwide Growth (USAID), is ready to be prolonged.

Whereas the service is at the moment being supplied totally free to a restricted variety of pre-approved passengers, Nove Onlus hopes it should develop into financially sustainable inside two years.

Terrifying visitors

In line with Khan Mohammad Shinwaray, police chief at Kabul’s visitors division, the variety of girls drivers within the capital has been steadily rising, with 275 licences authorised for the primary half of the 12 months.

That is fairly a bounce: Within the years between 2012 and 2016, simply 1,189 girls in whole obtained licences within the metropolis, in accordance with Nove Onlus.

It’s a “positive change to see Afghan women driving in Kabul,” Shinwaray mentioned. “There are no restrictions on women becoming drivers.”

Navigating Kabul’s visitors isn’t any simple feat. Site visitors can stream quick one second, then instantly grind to a whole standstill for hours on finish.

Street indicators are non-existent, few of the streets are named and drivers usually zoom the improper means into oncoming visitors. Often it’s the larger of two automobiles that wins the appropriate of means.

Congestion has solely obtained worse in recent times as Kabul has been sliced into ever-smaller parts by new safety measures and whole streets and landmarks instantly disappear behind towering blast partitions.

When extremist Taliban insurgents swept to energy in 1996, girls had been compelled to remain residence, barred from most jobs, and disadvantaged of their proper to an training.

After the militants had been toppled in late 2001 and a US-backed authorities took over, gender equality was enshrined within the Afghan structure, although discrimination stays rife.

Fatima Mohammadi, a 31-year-old Kabul resident who has been driving for about 4 years, mentioned she appreciated the liberty of getting a automotive however nonetheless offers with each day harassment on the street.

“I usually don’t leave the windows of the car open,” she mentioned.

“Sometimes when another driver or passerby smiles or says ‘Well done,’ it feels like harassment.”

Ladies like Haidary and Mohammadi fear the Taliban would possibly someday return to energy, and take away their relative freedoms.

Negotiations between the US and the Taliban that might have paved the best way to an eventual peace settlement collapsed in September, and now nobody is bound what’s going to come subsequent.

“If the Taliban come back, I hope they are not the same group they used to be,” mentioned Haidary. “If they impose the same limitations, we will lose our jobs.”

(Apart from the headline, this story has not been edited by HEARALPUBLICIST employees and is revealed from a syndicated feed.)

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