Kabul, Afghanistan – Smiles, cheers and expressions of shock – these are the reactions, says Mahjabin, when people in Afghanistan‘s capital see women like her behind the steering wheel.
“Someone is looking at us smiling; someone else is clapping hands or blowing the horn to felicitate us; some others are just shocked!” said the 24-year-old.
She is one of four women chosen from 100 candidates to become the drivers of the Pink Shuttle, a project by the Nove Onlus NGO billed “as the first and only service in Afghanistan driven uniquely by female drivers for female passengers”.
The selected drivers did two weeks of additional training to qualify to drive a shuttle.
Afghan law does not prohibit women from driving, but it is rare to see female drivers in the country, including in Kabul. According to the NGO, a total of 1,189 women received driving licenses in the capital between 2012 and 2016.
“Some men think it’s a bad action for women to sit in the car and put the hands on the dashboard and the wheel and we should stay at home. But this is not what we think,” says Parisah, 36, a former journalist chosen to become a shuttle driver.
“My husband encouraged me to apply for this job and so I can offer women a ride when needed.”
Nazilah, 23, added: “I want to break the tradition that women can’t drive … We need to show that we can.”
For Mahjabin, another reason that made her want to drive, is her three-year-old daughter: “I am thinking about the future of my daughter and I hope that all women will drive when she will become an adult.”