Afghan women face discrimination on a daily basis, especially when it involves driving, but one woman is determined to change that.
Sara Bahayi is one woman who has never been quiet about her opinions and she has made it her mission to challenge the patriarchal system that has ruled and continues to rule Afghanistan. At first glance, Bahayi may seem like any other Afghan women, except for her profession: driving a cab.
To date, she is the first Afghan woman to drive a cab publicly in a male dominated industry. She has been insulted, jeered at and had her life threatened, but nothing has stopped her from driving her clients, who are women. The women who ride her cab do so at their own risk because the absence of a male companion in public would result in shame or worse, abuse from other men or their family.
Choosing to drive only women clients has sparked abuse from the males in her community as well as those who vie for passengers, even women accompanied by men. Their disapproval of Bahayi’s disregard of their traditions toward driving has escalated to death threats, but it has not stopped her from driving or providing a good living for her family. Discrimination towards Bahayi is not uncommon for women in rural areas of Afghanistan, but as it seeps into urban areas, women’s rights have become blurry or difficult to exercise.
Interestingly, the men from Bahayi’s neighborhood have become tolerant with the idea of having the women in their families ride her cab for safety reasons. Some of them believe that the women feel safer in a cab driven by a woman. For these women, riding her cab afford them a taste of independence that usually eludes them or claim their dignity, or worse, their lives. Being driven by Bahayi has even inspired some of the women to learn how to drive and get their license.
Bahayi’s determination to provide safe passage for women has not made it easy for male cabdrivers to suppress her passion to fight against gender discrimination. Currently, she works for a car dealership with the goal of opening her own dealership one day and employing only women. I don’t doubt that she will reach her goals and continue to fight for women and their right to drive. That’s my view on this, what’s yours?