News / Asia

Pakistan Women Decry Lack of Safe Public Transport

Daily Commute Another Challenge for Pakistan's Working Womeni
X
January 29, 2013 6:56 PM
The International Labor Organization says barely one-fifth of the women in Pakistan work in paid jobs. Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad that the lack of safe and secure public transport is one of the reasons even educated women are unable to work and break out of a cycle of grinding poverty
Sharon Behn
— Barely one-fifth of Pakistan's women work in paid jobs, according to the International Labor Organization. The group says a lack of safe, secure public transportation is one of the reasons even skilled and educated women are unable to break out of a cycle of grinding poverty.

Covered in the traditional headscarf as she waits in Islamabad's crowded Abpara market, nurse Farzana Liaqat says women don't feel safe using public local buses, and often have to wait hours for a seat.

In Pakistan, typically the two front seats next to the driver are reserved for women. The rest of the bus is for the men.

Syed Saad Gilani, who has studied the question of decent public transport for women for the ILO, says women complain of being inappropriately touched, pushed and humiliated on buses.

Farzana Liaqat says there's not much women can do about getting harassed.

“Neither the police nor the driver can protect women,” she said. “These days the police can't protect anyone, there is corruption, terrorism; women don't have any protection, they are not secure at all, they have to protect themselves.

Harassment on buses is just one aspect of the gender discrimination women face in Pakistan. Outside of the wealthy, women often face discrimination at home, on the streets, in public spaces and at the work place, says Gilani.

As a result, many poor and middle class women just stay home. That means, Gilani says, that “out of 100, only one woman in Pakistan is getting a formal job which is fully covered and fully secured.”

Despite gains in the job sector, women still only represent about 20 percent of the labor force - and most of those women are unpaid family workers in agriculture.

Pakistan's government has passed a series of laws to protect women, including a law against sexual harassment. But public awareness of the law is low.

Men like Iftikhar Ehmud, a local shopkeeper in a village just outside Islamabad, say it's a big effort to send women to school or to work.

"If I send my female relatives for education or for work in a hospital then it takes two people to get her there, because I have to accompany her up to the bus in which she is traveling and then I have to talk to the bus driver to make sure he drops her off safely at her destination," he explained.

Farzana Bari, a professor of gender studies at Qaid-e-Azzim University in Islamabad, says it is a question of changing an entire mindset and criminalizing behaviors against women.

"I think we are failing sort of at both levels,” she says. “We haven't been able to change people's mindset because we fail to provide education, we fail to give them a sufficient level of exposure so the people should know, and we fail to even provide conditions where women themselves can be empowered enough to protect themselves against all kinds of cultural and traditional violence.”

Bari adds that her graduate students who speak out against gender discrimination often are treated as misfits.

“They say when they talk about it, their family rejects them, their friends reject them, and say ‘what are you talking about?’" she said.

Bus drivers say they are not able to push men out of their seats to accommodate women in a way that is acceptable to Pakistan's conservative society. Faced with rising fuel costs, they also argue that starting women-only bus runs is just not financially viable.

So even though the government is passing protective legislation, and more women in Pakistan are getting educated and gaining skills, many still face considerable challenges trying to earn their way into a better life.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mohammad Safa from: Dhaka
January 29, 2013 11:26 PM
Should be take care all woman.

In Response

by: Nadeem Khan from: Pakistan
February 02, 2013 3:04 AM
Take Care All Women

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid