Taxing time for women

This article was written for Pretoria News
By Sakhile Ndlazi

Sonke Gender Justice launched the Safe Ride video at the Nana Sita taxi rank (Photo: Thobile Mathonsi)

Female taxi commuters are exposed to the brunt of the aggres­sive, vulgar and sexist behaviour of drivers daily, and these often involve assaults.

The abuse and sexual taunts had now led to a call for urgent intervention and a partnership between activists and the taxi industry on a national awareness campaign to address harassment and gender-based violence towards women commuters.

This would be one of the many activities undertaken by the Safe Ride campaign, showcased by Sonke Gender Justice and the South African National Taxi Coun­cil (Santaco) at the Nana Sita taxi rank in Pretoria yesterday.

“These mindsets stem from dis­integrated gender relations where men feel they can dominate women. Women are still disempowered by men who feel they are bosses and can dictate to them whatever they want,” said Nonhlanhla Skosana, of Sonke Gender Justice.

Skosana said the programme aimed to reduce the level of harass­ment against women and children and educate taxi drivers and queue marshals on preventing gender-based violence, especially during 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children.

The ongoing project would pro­vide training to members of the taxi industry in the form of work­shops and dialogues.

During the event, a video of a woman relating her rape torment by a taxi driver was played to those assembled.

Most of the taxi drivers at the event were disgusted by the behav­iour of the driver, but said people should not paint all of them with one brush.

Edward Motale, of Sonke Gender Justice, a former taxi driver and owner, said gender-based violence was common in the taxis industry, but few people were willing to speak out. “Women are abused in taxis – there are so many cases. But to iron out these prob­lems we need to come together,” he said.

Santaco president Phillip Taaibosch said the taxi industry had a bad reputation and he was excited about how the campaign would reform it. “It’s a male-dominated industry and we believe the campaign is going to contribute immensely to the advocacy of showing respect to women, chil­dren and other citizens of the coun­try “It will also contribute to the commuter-taxi driver relationship. We believe it’s a way of instilling dignity and respect,” he said.

He added that there were roughly 680 000 taxi drivers affili­ated to the organisation, serving more than 15 million commuters across the country every day.

Supported by funding from the Danish embassy, the Safe Ride cam­paign will host events in all nine provinces with taxi drivers, queue marshals and commuters.

Danish ambassador Trine Rask Thygesen said gender-based vio­lence was a very important global issue and a campaign like this was a necessity “This is not going to change South Africa overnight; it is a process. But we’ve seen the dedication of Sonke Gender Justice and Santaco – there is huge poten­tial in this campaign,” she said.