Steps that can be taken to ensure safety of women in taxis in Kenya

Sharon Mundia in an Uber when it launched in Nairobi in 2015.
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Ten years ago if anyone had told you to get into a stranger’s car and trust them to take you home, you would’ve looked at them aghast and wondered; Have they gone mad or is the devil testing you?  I mean, what could go wrong? From being raped, abducted, being assaulted, murdered to being trafficked to unknown destinations and getting your organs removed. There’s just a lot on the list. You can’t even get to the part about human sacrifices if the stories you were told, once upon a time, are anything to go by. 

Especially if you are woman. Let us agree that a few scenes from a few horror movies would flashback before you agree to the sweetness of, “You ride has arrived.”

However, times have changed. Today we have Uber, Bolt, Little Cab, taxis, Jim cab, and the list is endless of the cab service providers that we subscribe to. Technology and digital dependency has led to the erosion of some of the restrictions we held towards taxis yet needless to say, some of these inhibitions still carry considerable weight as influenced by today’s digital society. 

Not too long ago, a twitter user shared;

This tweet evoked a lot of responses with a few men feeling that men were being discriminated and that the issue should be addressed encompassing both Genders and their safety in cabs

Another user claimed that they did not feel unsafe as many were claiming, and that tweeps were just being pretentious while they still used taxi-hailing services. 

Looking at reports from last year, in the first study detailing unsafe incidents in cabs, Uber recorded  a total of 3,045 cases of sexual assaults, nine murders and 58 accidents. This data represented one state out of the 1.3 billion rides that the company has in the U.S only. Coming home, here in Kenya, not once or twice have both men and women reported violent incidents, which all began from using the proposed ride hailing services. 

This report by the Daily Nation just highlights some of the few horrors that go on behind the scenes of cab hailing services. Both drivers and passengers confess to being victims of violence with many being saved by a twist of luck rather than the safety measures that the hailing cab services guarantee.  

The horror of it all is that little to no justice is given to the victims. Both reported and unreported cases remain the same. 

Where are we?

In response to the main tweet, another tweep cared to share with the mass, some of the safety measures she tries to implement each time she enters a cab.

She too, realizes that she cannot control everything except the bare minimum so at number five she lists prayers as her last safety measure.

 

Many supported her while condemning the ignorance that people showed on their responses, in regards to the vulnerability women felt while riding in male driven taxis. 

These are some of tweets that were shared;

 

 

 

In a male dominated market, this point, An-Nisa is the only safe space that comes forth if we are to table a conversation about women and safety  in cabs. An-nisa is a taxi hailing service but instead of men, it recruits women drivers and transports only female passengers alongside children. On the down side, to access this safe space users have to pay more than they do on other conventional cabs.  An-nisa charges a base fare of Ksh. 300 and Ksh 40 per kilometer. 

This leaves us with the question how much is the cost of safety on other ride-hailing services? 

In a report, Uber which is the world’s biggest ride-hailing service provider admitted that the safety of its customers has been an achilles’ heel for them and for other taxi companies as well. Much of this is due to the multitude of riders using the apps. Nonetheless not once have drivers working for taxi companies such as Bolt, (formerly known as Taxify), come forth to declare that some of the safety issues arise due to the negligence of the companies themselves. 

From personal anecdotes, of the emergency services not being functional to companies not doing a background check of the riders they register on their platforms. all these factors fuel the increase of unfortunate incidents. 

An investigation done in 2018 by CNN showed that even some of the drivers who pass background checks, harbor criminal intent. A sum of at least 103 former Uber drivers had been accused of sexual assault or passenger abuse.

So what precautionary measures can one take to minimize risks.

  • Wait for your ride in a safe area – it is advisable that you remain inside or in a well-lit area before your ride arrives. Since apps can show you as your ride approaches wait until the last minute before fetching your ride.
  • Ask the driver “Whats your name” – by asking this you positively confirm that the driver can identify your name and your destination. 
  • Match the details on your app to your ride – From the drivers profile picture to the license plate and model of the car. Verify that they match the details on your app.
  • There’s strength in numbers – Share your ride with a reliable friend if you have to. If they have to alight on the way ensure that your destination marks the end of the entire trip. 
  • Use live-sharing features – ride-hailing apps like Uber have an in-app feature that enables you to share your trip status or route. Needless to say, this doesn’t prevent unfortunate events from happening. Which shows that taxi providers need to reinforce their safety measures even more.  For instance, Nimb Ring is an example of a personal safety device that sends out your coordinates to your family members and the nearest police station in case of an attack. Such technology could be intergrated in taxis to guarantee the safety of drivers and passengers. 
  • Ensure that you do not turn off your GPS location throughout your entire trip.
  • Tell someone you’re on the way – doing so lets the driver know that the trip is being tracked. Hence make a phone call and inform a friend or family member of your location and the time you’re likely to arrive.  
  • Sit at the back- sitting at the back gives you space and distance from the driver. You can also access two exit doors as opposed to when you sit near the driver. Uber advises that sitting at the passenger’s side instead of behind the driver allows you to see the driver and the road. 
  • Follow the rules – wear your seatbelt as you do in other vehicles and be courteous. Prioritise your safety at all situations. This includes asking the driver to proceed safely before the ride starts. If you feel wary consider being dropped off at a safe location near your home that doesn’t reveal your address. 

As supported by many it is evident that safety in cabs is still a major concern and it should be taken more seriously. 

 

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