Shes the only female taxi driver in Afghanistan
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: 1250L

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Sara Bahai's decision to become Afghanistan's only known female taxi driver was motivated less by ideals of equality than by the need to support an extended family and a love of driving that has confined her conservative detractors to the rear-view mirror.

She still remembers her first time behind the wheel, 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, now around 40 years old, had already spent much of her life defying taboos in Afghanistan where women are widely regarded as inferior to men and discouraged from working outside the home.

She never married, she said, because she had to support her parents and siblings and feared a husband would prevent her from working. With no children of her own, she adopted two boys, now both 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 in a spotlessly clean yellow and white Toyota Corolla with sparkly woven seat covers and a good luck talisman in the front window.

"I receive threats from unknown callers who 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," she said.

She got her driver's license in 2002 and is also a mechanic. She earned a university degree in education and now teaches other women to drive so they can be more independent.

Attitudes about women have been slowly changing in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, and gender equality is enshrined in the constitution. But local authorities have been slow to adopt change and outside major cities deeply conservative traditions prevail.

Women who step out of their homes unaccompanied by male relatives often face verbal and sometimes physical harassment. Domestic violence goes largely unpunished and girls are still married off against their will, often to much older men, as payment for debts or as swaps for property.

At the same time, millions of girls are today attending school and 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 even to live alone in major Afghan cities.

Afghanistan's First Lady Rula Ghani has adopted a rare public profile since her husband, President Ashraf Ghani, took office in September. She is the first wife of an Afghan leader to routinely appear in public and 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.

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Assigned 34 times

  • NW2000Bball
    3/18/2015 - 08:40 a.m.

    I think that this woman that is the only taxi driver in Afganistan has some pros and cons about having this job and keeping it. She has to worry about getting robbed, since she is the only taxi driver she might have worse of a chance of keeping that job since it is the only one out there. A pro about this job is that she might be payed more for the risk and because she is the only woman to have this job.

  • BolinKatlin-DiB
    3/18/2015 - 09:20 a.m.

    this woman is the only woman taxi driver that there is and people always wonder why . i think thats its pretty cool for her to be the only woman because if thats what she wants to do then she can do it unless something thats in documentation saying that fmalis cant be taxi drivers

  • brandonj-Koc
    3/18/2015 - 10:29 a.m.

    Being the only woman taxi driver in Afghanistan means a lot and shows a lot and how the country is starting to become more accepting within the culture.

    3/18/2015 - 10:57 a.m.

    She's a strong and courageous person that's not afraid to defy her country's cultural beliefs, and for that I see her as a great person.

  • makaylar-Che
    3/18/2015 - 01:49 p.m.

    women are not afraid of guys because they got stronger than they were before and they are being brave to do what they want. i would be scared but that's my opinion.

  • DamienQ-Kut
    3/18/2015 - 03:13 p.m.

    I think that she is brave and strong. She doesn't care what other men think about her not even the Taliban also she does take of all those family members after her brother-in-law died

  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    3/19/2015 - 01:05 p.m.

    I think that it's weird that there is only one female taxi driver. I feel that this goes back to the whole prejudice problem in the world. Not only is there prejudice problems in America, but it's clear to be worldwide.

  • pp2000boa
    3/19/2015 - 01:07 p.m.

    I wonder why at age 13 she wasn't married off? It's a common tradition in Islam since 13 is the adult age. I think this isn't a big step, because a taxi driver isn't going to be noticed enough to create a big change.

  • NashMcComsey-Ste
    3/19/2015 - 01:21 p.m.

    It is good to see equality pushed in this way, especially in the middle east, where it is needed. For too long, culture has dictated woman's place in that area, and it's good to see someone brave enough to push for change.

  • AvaP-4
    3/19/2015 - 08:13 p.m.

    In Afghanistan, men seem to have a big role in daily life. Whether it be serving as an officer, being a doctor, or even driving a cab around, they seem to do it all. However, Sarah Bahai disagrees. Sarah is a strong supporter of women's rights and individual rights. Sarah fell in love with driving about 10 years ago, and now is a taxi driver. She is the only known female taxi driver in Afghanistan. Sarah has gotten threatening calls and even death threats for being the only woman, but she doesn't let that stop her from doing what she loves. I think it's very brave of Sarah to be the only female driver, especially how men treat her because of it too. She should be proud because she is probably encouraging other women to step up as well for their rights.

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