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Monday, March 27, 2023

Peshawar BRT changing lives of women

BRT Peshawar has proved hugely popular among women in the city. Mah Jabeen, a Pakistani student, says a new public transportation system in her hometown saved her from completing duties at her parents' house or perhaps having to marry.

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Jabeen, 23, claimed she was able to continue her master’s degree thanks to Peshawar’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, allowing her to pursue her dream of becoming a botanist.

“My parents had decided to stop my education … because they didn’t like me traveling in the disheveled Mazda wagons,” Jabeen said, referring to the city’s privately run minibusses while sitting on a shiny BRT bus en route to college.

They gave up because the new bus stop was only a few minutes from her house and dropped her off at the university gates, she explained.

Read more: Peshawar BRT receives International Gold Standard Service Award

BRT has proved beneficial for women

The BRT, which began service in 2020, has been a great hit with women in the city, where burqas and veils are commonplace and 90 percent of women said they felt insecure taking public transportation in a 2016 study.

According to the World Bank, sexual harassment such as gazing, whistling, and touching is common on buses and at bus stops in Pakistan, making many women cautious of traveling alone and deterring them from seeking a paid jobs.

In Peshawar, however, a quarter of the seats on the fleet of diesel-electric hybrid buses are dedicated for women, and the buses are outfitted with CCTV cameras, guards, and well-lit stations, making female passengers feel more at ease.

According to M. Umair Khan, a spokesman for TransPeshawar, the government-owned business that operates the BRT, about 15% of the BRT’s 2,000 personnel are female.

Such developments, he added, helped to explain why women now account for around 30% of bus riders in the city, up from just 2% two years ago.

Read more: Record number of people use BRT

Women still face difficulties when using a public transport

In Pakistan, women rarely ride bicycles or motorcycles, and taking rickshaws is frowned upon. Many women are put off by men-only buses or shared vans, or, like in Jabeen’s case, family members prevent them from taking them.

According to World Bank data, such concerns help explain why Pakistan’s female labor force participation percentage is among the lowest in the world, falling to 23% in 2019 from around 24% in 2015.

However, the BRT has made commuting cheaper, faster, and safer by providing frequent buses, dedicated lanes, subway-like stations, and enhanced connections throughout the city.