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
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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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Assigned 99 times

  • MeredithG-Jac
    3/18/2015 - 02:46 p.m.

    I found this very exciting because she is the only female driver to become so willingly a taxi driver. She deserves support. I wish that she wasn't the only driver because if more women became taxi drivers then she wouldn't get abused, physically and verbally.

  • tylieg-And
    3/18/2015 - 03:29 p.m.

    This was a really cool article. I think that it is really cool that girls are standing up for who they are. I hope that we can follow this example.

  • AinsleyW-Kut
    3/18/2015 - 04:14 p.m.

    I think it's awesome that she became the only female taxi driver. Because women should have the same rights and should be able to do the same things as men. We are just as capable as they are of doing these things as they are and I think sometimes they underestimate us. "Women who leave their house on accompanied by male relatives face verbal and sometimes even physical harassment. " I don't think that is right, they should be able to be independent. I love that more girls are getting into schools there and think that Sara Buahai is an inspiration to me and other girls and women.

  • BobbyA-Jac
    3/18/2015 - 04:19 p.m.

    Wow conditions are very bad there. I hope they get better there soon. At least she has a job as a taxi driver. Afganistan is poor.

  • ReaganT-Mee
    3/18/2015 - 04:24 p.m.

    I agree. The women in Afghanistan shouldn't be treated with such carelessness. I wonder how many women have cowered to the men because they are too scared to fight for themselves. It's a bummer they don't have a voice. It takes one woman or girl to say I don't think it's right, but it's another to actually make a change and stand her ground. I'm very impressed by Sara Bahi and her charisma to go against her religions rules and do what she loves and thinks is best for her. She empowers herself with courage and dignity and knows that no one in their right mind should back down because someone is "bullying'' you.

  • EvanL-Jac
    3/18/2015 - 06:15 p.m.

    I think they should let women be taxi drivers because its no different than a guy doing it. Its pretty cool that she doesn't care about the threats people gave her.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    3/18/2015 - 08:31 p.m.

    I think that this is surprising because a woman in Afghanistan is the only taxi driver in that country I think because that she wants to get a job on doing the taxi driving because if people get hired on a work place, they get money on doing their work. Well if that woman in Afghanistan is the only woman doing the taxi job, I think that no men wanted to do the taxi job.

  • AndrewK-Jac
    3/19/2015 - 12:03 a.m.

    She is the only female taxi driver in all of Afghanistan? That's insane I mean more women should take that job as a taxi driver so she isn't alone.

  • AmyM1-Jac
    3/19/2015 - 12:10 a.m.

    I think that this is okay because, us girls, aren't given the credit for what we do. We get criticized for something that we can't choose. Just because we are girls, doesn't mean that we are less hardworking than men. Men overpower us and that's why people think girls are weak.

  • ConnerC-Kut
    3/19/2015 - 07:51 a.m.

    I feel kind of proud for Sara. She is pretty much one of the only, or only, woman in Afghanistan who drives, but not for long. If she is teaching other girls how to drive, then soon there will most likely be more woman drivers in that country. Also, the average person would be scared of death threats and would stop driving, but not Sara. She is not afraid of threats or anything of that sort. She probably will never be scared of anything.

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