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
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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. 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, where 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 and 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 in a spotlessly clean 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 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. Now she 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 country's constitution. But local authorities have been slow to adopt change. 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. Girls are still married off against their will, often to much older men. The females sometimes are taken as payment for debts or as swaps for property.

At the same time, millions of girls are today attending school. Many now 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 is Rula Ghani. She 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. 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.

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COMMENTS (110)
  • CW01BUDDY
    3/18/2015 - 08:40 a.m.

    I like what Sara is doing. In her culture, and in many other cultures women are inferior to men. Often women can't have the same job as men, just because their women. By Sara being the only women taxi driver she is making a statement. She's saying that men and women are equal, and they can have the same jobs. WOMEN'S RIGHTS!!! Now maybe other women will be like Sara and take a stand for women's rights, and not allow men to be sexist.

  • DT00x3
    3/18/2015 - 08:44 a.m.

    Well now they have a first lady in Afghanistan to like help give women equal rights as men, and since the girl is now a taxi driver she's sort of rebelling and showing women all over Afghanistan not to be afraid of men and to do what they want and lastly it is now a law to give equal rights to all sexes.

  • Keegen
    3/18/2015 - 10:35 a.m.

    It is crazy to think that in some places peple are not treated with the same respect. Afghanistan is one example of a place where womans rights are not the same. It is nice to see woman standing up or their rights to make their country better.

  • sonjax
    3/18/2015 - 10:46 a.m.

    It is amazing what this woman is doing, standing up for her rights and the rights of all women in Afghanistan and i admire her very much.

  • emmar1208
    3/18/2015 - 10:47 a.m.

    I believe that what this women is doing is great for country and for herself. Also, the abuse that she gets is totally wrong and she is a strong women for holding her ground by herself.

  • Dana2015
    3/18/2015 - 10:59 a.m.

    I think that they should respect her and her job she does for everyday taxi-riding people or not, everyday. Just because she is the only female taxi driver in Afghanistan, does not mean she does not deserved respect that any other female would in Afghanistan. That is because most or no women in Afghanistan don't have jobs.

  • NathanS50
    3/18/2015 - 11:00 a.m.

    Tha's super cool that progress is finally being made! Women everywhere should be treated the same as men, and Afghanistan is slowly starting to realize this. Suprising nothing's happened though, as it isn't fully accepted.

  • Dana2015
    3/18/2015 - 11:00 a.m.

    I think that they should respect her and her job she does for everyday taxi-riding people or not, everyday. Just because she is the only female taxi driver in Afghanistan, does not mean she does not deserved respect that any other female would in Afghanistan. That is because most or no women in Afghanistan don't have jobs.

  • CarsonF-Jac
    3/18/2015 - 01:28 p.m.

    I think that is it very awesome that she is the only girl taxi driver in that place. I think they need to respect her and dont make fun of her. they shouldnt look at her any different then a boy driver.

  • AvisaJ-Jac
    3/18/2015 - 02:43 p.m.

    This is wrong of what they are doing they should treat everybody with respect and treat everybody the same way just because she is the only girl doesn't mean she should be treated differently. Every day she is driving for everybody.

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