Shes the only female taxi driver in Afghanistan Afghan taxi driver, Sara Bahai, 40, right, waits for customers in Mazar-i Sharif city, capital of northern Balkh province, Afghanistan (AP photos)
Shes the only female taxi driver in Afghanistan
Lexile

She is a special woman in Afghanistan. Sara Bahai is the country's only known female taxi driver.

She didn't become one just because she wanted to seek some equality with males. She was motivated by the need to support an extended family. That, and a love of driving that has confined her detractors to the rear-view mirror.

She still remembers her first time behind the wheel. It was shortly after the Taliban were driven from power in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

"I felt like I was in the sky. And I totally fell in love with driving," she said.

There was no turning back.

Bahai is now around 40 years old. She had already spent much of her life defying taboos in Afghanistan. There, women are widely regarded as inferior to men. Females are discouraged from working outside the home.

She never married, she said. That is because she had to support her parents and siblings. She feared a husband would prevent her from working. With no children of her own, she adopted two boys. Both are now in high school. When Taliban insurgents shot and killed her brother-in-law, she took in her sister and seven nieces and nephews. She now supports a dozen people.

To put food on the table, she drives around the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Her taxi is a spotless yellow and white Toyota Corolla. It has sparkly woven seat covers. And a good luck talisman in the front window.

"I receive threats from unknown callers. (They) tell me to not drive in the city because I am a woman, because it is against Islam. Some tell me that if I continue to work as a taxi driver they will kill me," she said.

"Male passengers are very jealous and often abuse me. But I don't care what they think of me. I am not afraid. I will change the country with whatever ability I have to do so."

Bahai got her driver's license in 2002. But she is much more. She earned a university degree in education. Now she teaches other women to drive so they can be more independent. And, she is a mechanic.

Attitudes about women have been slowly changing in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. And gender equality is included in the country's constitution. But authorities have been slow to adopt change. Deeply conservative traditions prevail outside major cities.

Women who step out of their homes unaccompanied by male relatives often face verbal and sometimes physical harassment. Domestic violence goes largely unpunished. Girls are still married off against their will. The females sometimes are taken as payment for debts or as swaps for property.

At the same time, millions of girls today attend school. Many graduate from university. Maternal mortality rates are falling as health services improve. And it is no longer unusual for women to travel abroad alone. Or to even to live alone in major Afghan cities.

Afghanistan's first lady is Rula Ghani. She has adopted a rare public profile. Her husband, President Ashraf Ghani, took office in September. She is the first wife of an Afghan leader to routinely appear in public. She has campaigned for women's issues and poverty alleviation.

In a speech to mark International Women's Day, she said. "women should be respected both inside and outside their homes and play an active role in society as doctors, engineers, soldiers, police officers."

Critical thinking challenge: List three ways that life is better now for women in Afghanistan.

Assigned 28 times


COMMENTS (6)
  • ryan0420-yyca
    3/18/2015 - 09:14 p.m.

    wow think that it is very awesome that she is the only women who is working as a taxi driver. But I think that she would have a hard time because she would get a lot of negative comments from people who ride in her taxi cab. I think that she should be allowed to work as a taxi driver because everyone has the right to do what ever they want to do. Also she shouldn't be killed just for working as a taxi cab.

  • emrar-boo
    3/20/2015 - 11:18 a.m.

    Women are now able to attend school and graduate from universities. Maternal mortality rates are also falling as health services improve. They are able to pursue a career and are more respected to the society.

  • JackS-4
    3/20/2015 - 04:10 p.m.

    Like all countries on the Arabian Penninsula, women are descriminated against. Sara Bahai is the only female taxi driver in Afghanistan. Contradictory to what many would assume, she isn't fighting for female equality, but rather to support her large family. She often receives anonymous death threats against her, and is often harassed by the passengers.

    Being a taxi driver seems like a bad job. If i was harassed by my passengers and was receiving death threats, I would probably quit.

  • AbigailG-Kut
    3/22/2015 - 02:00 p.m.

    I think it is good for bahai to be the only women driving a taxi Afghanistanin, but i still think she should be careful about her life. I read a book in class about a little girl getting shot in the eye in the taliban for no reason! i think she should have someone in the car she can trust just in case.

  • TaylorM-Kut
    3/24/2015 - 06:46 p.m.

    I thought this story was great and it showed that not only men do all the work. Women can do lots of things to just like Sara. I also thought it was great when even though she mithave been scared on the inside she didn't show it on the outside. What she showed on the outside was braveness and today that is what she is showing to other people that they can do the same.

  • Meganp-Cla
    4/08/2015 - 09:25 p.m.

    I really liked this story because of the life lessons that you learn. It teaches you that even thought you are a men or women you can still do things you want to dod even though people say you can't becuse of the way it is in thet country .You dont always have to do what other people say you can follow your dream and do what you have always wanted to do.Thi story tells me that Sars is a kind and brave person because she didnt care if she was going to get killed by driving a taxi , she just wasnt afraid . She is also knind because she did this for peole that are not even her family while people whre telling her not to drive or else she would get in trouble .

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