Women Run Taxi Service in Beirut

Lebanon joins other countries like England, Russia, Australia, Iran, India, and the United Arab Emirates in having women-run taxi services. From the Wall Street Journal (there’s a video too if you click on the video tab):

“Nawal Fakhri, 45 years old, founder of Banet Taxi… launched Banet Taxi in March with just three cars and three drivers. Her fleet of late-model Peugeots has grown five-fold since then with enough drivers to provide 24-hour service. She is hoping to double her fleet this summer, to 24 cars.

The company is part of a regional trend. Entrepreneurs across the Middle East have recognized the business potential in offering secure transportation options for women. Banet Taxi follows on the heels of successful women-only transportation models in Dubai, Tehran and Cairo….

“One of my daughters is 15 years old and I send her in this taxi all the time, especially at night … and not have to worry.”

It is the promise of a safe and uneventful ride that attracts a wide range of female passengers: older women who want a quiet drive, young women out partying until late at night, and even preschoolers put in the cars by their teachers.

Passengers’ reasons for choosing Banet are based, in part, on their cultural and religious backgrounds. Beirut’s population breaks down roughly into thirds, Christian, Sunni and Shiite. Conservative Muslim women might take Banet Taxi to accommodate rules against traveling with unknown men. Others just want to put comfort and safety first.

“I studied Lebanese society well and my first customer is the Lebanese woman,” says Ms. Fakhri. “I am well aware that I could be making a lot more money with this if I also accepted male customers, but to me it is clear that in Lebanon, women need a service like this.”

Lebanon has no shortage of women who are skittish about taking regular taxis. Reporting of sexual harassment remains low in a country with much taboo surrounding abuse and victimhood.

Yasmine Hajjar, a 23-year-old student in Beirut, says most of her female friends have a story about being harassed in a taxi. In one extreme example, she says she narrowly escaped being abducted by a taxi driver when she was 15 years old — by pulling out her knife and holding it to the driver’s throat.

“I think the pink taxis are a good thing,” says Ms. Hajjar. “It’s the safest way to go.”

It’s interesting how many of these women run taxi services are cropping up around the globe. As I’ve said many times, ideally, I’d love to have cultures socialize men not to harass women and make there be stiff consequences if they do, but in the meantime, I love seeing women like Ms. Fakhri take matters into their own hands and create safer ways for women to travel. Kudos to her.

RightRides in New York City is a small nonprofit that provides rides home to women, transgender, and queer people for a few hours on Friday and Saturday nights in most neighborhoods across the NYC-metro area.  At least one of the two volunteers per car must be female. Unlike the for-profit programs in other countries, they offer their service free of charge. They always need more volunteers and money to keep running, so check them out.

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