No smooth ride for female Uber, Little Cab drivers


No smooth ride for female Uber, Little Cab drivers

In Summary

  • They occasionally face discrimination and abuse - from difficulties renting cars due to biased perceptions that women are bad drivers, to fending off drunken male passengers.
  • And with their phone numbers accessible to customers through the app, the women also endure daily “follow-up calls” from former customers who want to date them after the trip is over.
  • The female drivers say they also face sexist comments where people perceive them to be sex workers simply because they are well-dressed, working at night, and doing a “man’s job”.

A rising number of women are taking up jobs as drivers.

Little Cabs – one of Nairobi’s popular ride-sharing platforms, has witnessed a 13-fold increase in the number of women drivers over the last two years.

“There were 27 women drivers registered with Little Cabs when we first started in June 2016, now there are 381. We aim to have 1,000 women drivers by the end of this year,” said Jefferson Aluda, operations manager for Little Cabs.

“Many people think taxi driving is a man’s job, but that view is changing. Customers tell us that women are careful drivers and very professional. Through our recruitment campaigns, we expect more women to join.”

In the last three years, at least a dozen e-cab apps have launched to meet the demands of a growing population of Kenyans with smartphones.

These include Uber, Taxify, Little Cabs and Pewin.  But it’s not always a smooth ride for Kenya’s female taxi drivers.

Discrimination and Abuse

They occasionally face discrimination and abuse – from difficulties renting cars due to biased perceptions that women are bad drivers, to fending off drunken male passengers.

And with their phone numbers accessible to customers through the app, the women also endure daily “follow-up calls” from former customers who want to date them after the trip is over.

The female drivers say they also face sexist comments where people perceive them to be sex workers simply because they are well-dressed, working at night, and doing a “man’s job”.

But such instances are rare, say the women drivers, and working in the taxi sector has inspired some of them to one day have their own fleet of taxis – for women driven by women.

“There is a demand for women taxi drivers. Customers appreciate our appearance and professionalism. Some say we drive safer and our cars are cleaner than male drivers,” said Muchiri.

“We take pride in ourselves and in our job. We are no less than someone who works in an office. We see our car as our office and believe that once we are in the car, we must behave like a professional.”

Safety of Women Drivers

The women choose riders with higher ratings and opt for locations in populated rather than isolated areas. Their companies also track them via GPS and they have an alert/SOS button on their apps for support if they need help.

Uber officials say ride-sharing apps can provide a great economic opportunity for women, particularly in developing nations such as Kenya.

“We think apps like Uber can help break down global, structural barriers that keep women from fully participating in the economy,” Uber’s East Africa spokeswoman Janet Kemboi said.

“These include social biases, security risks, financial and digital inclusion, and access to vehicles and other assets.”

Better Than Office Job

Drivers earn a minimum of Ksh.30 per minute and companies take up to 25 percent of their earnings. Minus the company fee, fuel and car rental costs, drivers working 12 hours daily can earn on average Ksh. 60,000 in a month, industry sources say.

Faridah Khamis, a single mother of five children, decided to become an online taxi driver in February last year.

“The rates are low and I have to work 12 hours daily – when my children are at school and at night when they are asleep. But it’s better money than an office job these days,” the 36-year-old said.

“I also think it’s very safe for women. I choose when I work, where I work, and which clients I work with. If I was a regular taxi driver, I would be on the roads looking for passengers. The app means I can find customers from my home.”

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