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

  • KiraWvA-4
    3/19/2015 - 10:29 p.m.

    Sara Bahai is the only female taxi driver in Afghanistan, supporting a dozen people with her spotless Toyota and her love of driving. She has never married, but adopted two boys who are now in high school and accepted her sister and her seven children when hr sister's husband was killed. Her record of death threats and calls telling her taxi-driving goes against Islam is long - but she isn't cowed. She teaches women to drive and seeks to "change the country with whatever ability (she has) to do so." I think this is the perfect example of inequality and equality. She started to drive a taxi not as some protest against men but as a job, a simple, money-earning job, and still there are people who think that was the worst idea of her life. I say - good job, Sara Bahai!

  • jasonm-Koc
    3/22/2015 - 01:54 a.m.

    It is important that there is women like this in middle eastern countries. In this country there are woman taxi drivers everywhere and people are used to seeing it. In other countries it is important for women to show that they can do the same job as men.

  • alizel-Koc
    3/23/2015 - 12:48 a.m.

    Three ways that life is better now for women in Afghanistan are that they finally have more freedom, more rights, and more roles that they should have been active in from the beginning. I love that there is now some great change that is happening in Afghanistan, especially for the women. Women are known as help-meat, power, and many more. For them not to have many rights, isn't right itself. I believe that women everywhere should have the rights they deserve, because they are the key to reproduction of the world. Therefore, if there were no women, there would be no world. Some countries need to keep that in mind.

  • adrianas-Koc
    3/23/2015 - 01:12 a.m.

    I think this woman is very courageous considering the amount of threats and harrasment she has received since being a taxi driver. I believe that women especially in her country should be treated just as equal or even better than men , sadly this is not the case and I applaud her for not limiting herself.

  • stephanieg-Che
    3/23/2015 - 01:52 p.m.

    I am inspired by her she is going against what the laws are. I am glad that she isn't letting the threats get to her and that she isn't scared. She is doing a good thing teaching them women that they don't have to depend on men. That women don't have to put up with what the men say.

  • Jazc-Fre
    3/24/2015 - 11:18 a.m.

    Just being a different gender, can make others think less than of you, not only in Afghanistan, but all around the world. I could state many reasons how lives of Afghanistan women improved. Anyone who was female in Afghanistan weren't allowed to go to school, and It's amazing that the feminist are speaking up. I'm actually surprised they're letting Sara Bahai drive as a taxi driver. That's another way Afghanistan has changed, some women now, have jobs that only men were able to have. Also, women are probably more confident because they're not really getting harassed, or pyshical harassment.
    Women in Afghanistan have gone a long way, and I hope that this is a start of something we wished the whole world would be like.

  • SchopferR-Tan
    3/30/2015 - 08:49 a.m.

    This is a very inspiring thing. Sara Bahai drives a taxi to support her family. This is against the relgion of Islam which is very dominate in Afghanistan. She drives the taxi cab regardless of how much she is abused and how much she is hated for it. She wants to show other women that they can be independent like her. She wants to take part in the change for equality for women.

  • MadisonSch
    3/31/2015 - 08:34 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

  • Julian10
    4/17/2015 - 11:42 a.m.

    Sara Bahai's is the first women to drive alone and be one of the few women who are in public without male supervision. She is the first and only female taxi driver and takes care of a dozen people. When taliban killed her brother in law she took seven nieces and her seven nephews. She says that she wants to be the change in the afghanistan government in allowing women to have more freedom. Also the first lady, Rula Ghani, of afghanistan has been working to allow women to have more freedom and also work outside of their homes.

  • Haley Patterson
    4/27/2015 - 01:47 p.m.

    I have actually never seen a female taxi driver and it would be very odd to see this. I have to wonder why she decided to choose this occupation though and I think that reporters should question her. I have to applaud her though.

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