Pakistan's first women-only rickshaw service struggles after just a year

Tue Mar 22, 2016 6:15am EDT
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By Mubasher Bukhari

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan's first women-only rickshaw service was meant to provide its staff with a new way of gaining financial independence and its passengers with the chance of a ride without being groped and harassed by male drivers.

But, after just a year in business, the "Pink Rickshaw" in the Punjabi city of Lahore, is struggling.

Help has been promised by a Scotland-based charity, run by pop star Annie Lennox, and Pink Rickshaw founder, Zar Aslam, said she hopes to get the money for ten rickshaws by September.

Aslam, who herself narrowly escaped kidnapping in a rickshaw when she was a student, told Reuters she had aimed to have 25 of the pink-and-white rickshaws on the road by mid-2016 but the manufacturers have sent only six, and three are too old to use.

"There are several women waiting to get the rickshaws," said Aslam, who also runs the Environment Protection Fund, a Pakistani non-profit agency.

The rickshaws cost about $3,000 each, and more if you add tracking and anti-theft systems.

"The first few rickshaws we bought were expensive but now we're looking at cheaper models," she said.

"The only disappointment is to get the funding for more rickshaws because the demand is out there and it is just a matter of getting all the funds together," Aslam said.   Continued...

Parveen Bibi sits in her Pink Rickshaw as she waits for passengers in Lahore, Pakistan November 17, 2015.  REUTERS/Mohsin Raza