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Jawzjan’s lone woman driver determined to break the taboo

Jawzjan’s lone woman driver determined to break the taboo

Dec 08, 2015 - 14:42

SHIBERGHAN (Pajhwok): Of the 60 women currently attending a driving course in northern Jawzjan province, only one is practically behind the wheel. And she is determined to challenge the menace of female drivers’ harassment.

Khajesta Qayyum, who views driving as an important need for women, told Pajhwok Afghan News in an exclusive interview that she had to employ a driver in the past to take her from one place to another.

Straying into the predominantly male preserve, she has been driving for the past one year -- convinced that women could also learn driving as well as men can. Respect for the equal-opportunity principle be accepted by society, she believes.

“Some people try to disturb women drivers -- a rare scene in the deeply conservative Afghan society, where we hear abusive words. But I’ve resolved to defy this culture and encourage women drivers,” she says.

Also an officer at the education department, Qayyam travels six kilometres daily from her home to office. She can driver whenever there is a problem.

The first driving training course, featuring 60 women, has been launched by the provincial women’s council of Junbish-i-Milli Islami Party in Shiberghan -- the capital of Jawzjan.

The council head, Zoya Zalal agrees driving is a need for women in the current situation. “We faced many challenges during our training course, but want to promote driving by females and remove pessimism about women drivers.”

Mariam, who has been part of the training course, thinks the gender issue should not be a concern when it comes to driving. To her, the goal should to how best to solve the transport problem.

“I want to learn driving and drive myself. But before taking control of the steering wheel, I plan to promote female drivers,” she says. “Women do have the right to drive and people should not be sensitive in this regard.”

Saira Shakib, the only female district chief in Jawzjan, agrees driving skills were essential for women, though women motorists are an unusual sight in Afghanistan.

“It is impossible for women to employ a driver all the time. If she owns a car and know how to drive, she can use her skill to move and resolve her problem,” Shakib reasoned.

The training course for females is being sponsored by the traffic department. Traffic Director Col. Mohammad Akram Ilyar characterised the driving training course as essential for women. Currently there was only one female driver in the province, he confirmed.

But he hoped the course would help open a new window of opportunity for women drivers in Jawzjan. After passing the test, the female trainees would be granted driving licences, he promised.

Traffic officials says 250 women have received driving licences in Kabul, Herat, Balkh and Nangarhar -- provinces where literacy rates are relatively high and cultural restrictions on females fewer.