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1 June, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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Women not allowed on Uber Moto!

Reesha Ahmed
Women not allowed on Uber Moto!

I am really disappointed. I have been using Uber to get to places for a while, Uber Moto, not the cars, because honestly, the cars take way longer to get you to your destination due to the horrible traffic of Dhaka, and they are too expensive to be used on a daily basis.

The discovery that broke my heart was that Uber Moto drivers are incredibly sexist. So whenever I call an Uber bike, the rider reaches out to me through a phone call, because that is how it works. The moment they find out I am a girl, their tone changes, and I can sense that they are unwilling to accept my request for the ride. I have been cancelled on several times now, even though according to the map on the Uber app on my phone, the rider was a minute away.

This happened to me one morning. I could see that the vehicle was nearby but the man made excuses about not being able to find my location and insisted that I cancel the ride so that he wouldn't be penalised for it. I go on really short trips so the fare is not very high. I tried to convince myself that the low fare is the cause of their rejection. But if Uber offers short rides as a service, then shouldn't they be providing it?

However, the last ride I took was an eye-opener. It helped me get a lot of clarity on the situation, and realise what the actual cause of their non-acceptance had been, as the man on the bike kept asking me questions like, "Are you comfortable? Do you know how to sit on a bike? I don't think girls should be using Uber Moto. They should use rickshaws instead." So this man has the audacity to tell me that I should arrive late and look for an alternative just because misogynists like him are uncomfortable seeing women on a bike? There is absolutely no reason for them to find this inappropriate, given that there is no physical contact. We, women, do not need to hold onto a stranger for support, we know exactly how to sit and be balanced on a bike.

And to the pedestrians I must say, stop staring at us. Stop talking about us like we are mere objects, or puppets in a show where you are the master. The man on the bike does not have to be our father or husband, you wouldn't bother if it had been a boy. Truth be told, at times I feel helpless and alienated as a girl.

My efforts to find the Uber Bangladesh helpline were to no avail. I looked all over the internet. I needed an outlet for my emotions, a platform to share my opinions, to assure myself that my voice would not go unheard. It is truly a shame that a country as progressive as ours is still so far behind in such aspects. Society has taken it upon itself to make sure that it makes all the decisions for a woman. We are not even allowed the liberty to choose a means of transportation.

Uber operates in over 60 countries and 400 cities worldwide. 19% of Uber drivers are female. That’s an oddly small percentage. The concept of female Uber drivers has not been introduced in our country yet, as the company has surely noticed how divided our nation is, with some open to new ideas while others rigid and critical about change. I believe there will soon come a time when such job opportunities will be created for women in the Bangladesh labour market. Women will be in the driver’s seat, both literally and metaphorically. Female participation in the workforce has already increased manifolds, as female employment has risen to 35%, reaching 18.1 million from 2008 to 2017 according to a report by the International Labour Organization.

I have a theory that men who want to suppress women are afraid of being replaced. They are crippled by the fear that a woman more capable and deserving will stand in their way, take over their position and enjoy all the luxuries that they are so unfairly revelling in. To my horror, I recently found out that some women are against female empowerment. They have been convinced that men are to be in charge, and if a woman speaks up about issues such as equality, or demands respect, she is a disgrace. I overheard a conversation between two ‘educated’ working women. They were having a discussion about how shameful they think it is for a girl belonging from any estimable family to consider Uber bikes for transportation. One of them strongly insisted, “If I had been her father or husband, I would make sure she never dared to step out of the house and do such an unacceptable thing. I would have instilled in her the right values. She must not forget that she is a girl after all,” as she spoke of the young lady she had seen on an Uber motorcycle. When instead of being supportive, and taking a stand for the right cause, women become hostile and overly critical of each other, it breaks my heart. These women are convinced that they are inferior to men, their wings were cut off before they even knew they could fly, they were taught to be obedient and rely on the ‘superior sex’.

Furthermore, rickshaw pullers, too, take great interest in gossiping about girls who use Uber Moto. One rickshaw puller actually made it a point to inform me that according to the members of the rickshaw pullers’ community, girls who take a bike instead of rickshaws to avoid traffic and save time are damaging our culture. How exactly will using a convenient means of transportation adversely affect our culture? This shall forever remain incomprehensible to me.

I never understand why the oppression of women is such a welcomed concept. What is it that discourages us from liberating women? Your daughter is not a pawn. She is not a burden that you have to marry off. She is rather an asset. She is your strength. Empower her. Raise her to be a strong individual who is capable of withstanding the unfairness of the misogynistic society and fighting for her rights. Raise your sons to treat their mothers, sisters and daughters with respect and to always remember that women are their equals.

The writer is a contributor to

The Independent

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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