To help facilitate a safe and comfortable way for women to get around Qatar, members of the Central Municipal Council (CMC) have recommended that more female taxi drivers be hired to meet high demand.
The proposal to urge state-run transportation company Mowasalat to expand a female taxi driver service was discussed during the council’s regular meeting today.
Speaking to Doha News, CMC member Nasser Ibrahim Mohamed Issa Al Mohannadi, who first presented the proposal for discussion, said more women are seeking transport options as the country’s population rises.
Adding more female taxi drivers would help working women, mothers, students and tourists avoid harassment and make them feel more independent and secure.
He added that expanding such a service would help preserve the customs and traditions of a conservative society like Qatar.
Previously, some female customers have complained about taxi drivers bullying them into paying higher fees, especially at night.
In 2013, the Peninsula reported incidents of cab drivers stopping halfway into their journeys, keeping their doors locked and then demanding that customers hand over a certain fare immediately.
The newspaper quoted a female expat saying, “It was so terrifying an experience. I instantly handed over the money.”
A few months later, Alijarah’s Limousine service, which is Qatar’s second taxi franchise operator under Mowasalat, launched a female drivers service to accommodate women.
At the time, the company announced that it had hired and trained women from Kenya and Ghana to provide the service.
However the service is limited, and mostly used by people booking a taxi service on a regular basis, not for one-off demand.
The female drivers are available only by booking through Alijarah by calling 8004488.
Speaking to Doha News today, an operator said that trips inside the capital could be booked for a monthly fee of QR2,925 for five days a week.
The taxis can also be booked for a flat rate of QR60 for one trip and QR70 per hour for more than one trip per day, although this is difficult to reserve, he added.
He said that the customer needs to call one day in advance to check if there’s a driver available, as the service is usually fully booked.
Al Mohannadi recommended that the expanded service be offered by taxis that are of a unique color, so women can easily spot them on the street, such as pink cabs in Dubai.
Such a service is also available in many other GCC countries where women prefer female drivers to get around the country, like Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE.
The council member also said it’s important for the official taxi operator to offer the service, which is safer than the freelance female drivers advertising in newspapers.
CMC members agreed with Al Mohannadi on the importance of the proposal, which was referred to an internal committee for further discussion and recommendations.
Seats for women
Meanwhile, in a bid to encourage more women to use public transport, Mowasalat announced this week plans to reserve front seats in big public buses for women only.
Mowasalat said that stickers were posted inside the buses and on the women’s seating areas and announcements were made in the media regarding the changes.
Mowasalat has been pushing to make public transportation a more attractive commuting option, with traffic congestion in and around Doha seemingly getting worse by the day.
The number of daily users has fluctuated in recent years, including a decline attributed to delays and congestion. Currently, about 60,000 people use the bus daily, officials said in May. They are mostly single males, as women usually shy away from taking public transportation.
There are now 200 public buses that serve 50 routes and are operational from 9:30am until 11:30pm daily.