A Tribute To A Single Mother – Pakistan’s First Female Cab Driver, Zahida Kazmi

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Earning your livelihood by working with dignity and self-respect is hard but the fruits of such labor are well worth the effort. In Pakistan, which unfortunately to this date, continues to be a patriarchal society (when we manage to get rid of this status, only time will tell) torn by a constant conflict between the ideas of liberalism and Islamic conservatism, it is difficult for females especially from the poorer regions to have their say, in not only major decisions, such as choice of spouse and career etc., but ordinary life in general is hard too, with everything from birth till death, dictated by the men in their lives. In the urban areas with relatively higher income groups, things are a bit better but in the poorer districts, things remain the same – stagnant, forbidding and dangerous for the women.

It, therefore, is very heartening to hear stories of how one of these trapped women gathers the courage to define her choices in life for herself, by herself. Zahida Kazmi is one such example. She is Pakistan’s first female cab driver.

She got divorced at the age of 33 and instead of confining herself to what society dictates, she took her fate in her own hands. With six kids to support and no source of income, she figured she’d have to take a stand on her own.

Zahida decided to become a taxi driver – a profession, which is, I won’t be exaggerating if I say, completely male dominant. Undeterred by the odds against her, she took advantage of the government scheme where anyone was able to buy a taxi through installments. She got herself a yellow cab and used to drive to the Islamabad airport in the mornings for passengers. At first, feeling unsafe in her new job, she would carry a gun with her and being clad in a burqa but it used to scare the passengers so she stopped covering her head as she got older and the locality became better acquainted with her and her taxi. At start, her mother disapproved of her career choice and only gave her most resentful of approvals after Zahida got extensive media coverage.

Today, she is the president of Pakistan’s Yellow Cab Drivers Association and offers women lessons on how to drive taxis.

Her own daughters unfortunately do not work since they are married off and her sons do not volunteer to help her out. For whatever reasons, the tragic part is that her daughters have already seen what their mother went through, depending on a male family member for livelihood, something that cost her heavily later on. She however cannot be blamed because she was trapped in the society but her daughters however should have taken her bold initiative further and even if not a taxi driver, perhaps started off something else for the women of Pakistan, maybe expanding on her cab association.

In either case, one cannot help but feel proud of women like Zahida. We certainly need more examples like her. Amongst the elite class, we got people like Shirmeen Obaid and now we have Zahida to prove that even the unprivileged women can make a life for themselves.

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  1. Guest says

    It is good to see that she took control of her life instead. It is ironic how our society would rather tell women to beg (from brothers, random strangers or the larger public) rather than get gainful employment/business.
    It also shows the behaviour of society at large where every denouncible thing becomes acceptable as soon as the money and fame starts pouring in, as was the case of the mother of this woman. The old lady was disapproving but put her mouth where the money is very quickly.

    On the other hand the article is wrong on many levels and as such deserves criticism. Although basic rights like choice of number of children, control over body and health decisions should be actively given to every human being (including men and women), some decisions over employment are done in goodwill by the males of the family. By far more men die in mobile snatching, car snatching and bomb blasts but you never hear any woman say that because the males of their family take the pain of providing sustenance, the women can live in the relative shelter of the home.
    Wanting the sons to “volunteer” or the daughters to “further” the cause also goes in bad taste. The sons may as well have gainful employment somewhere else and the daughters were also born free, they were not born to serve the feminist movement. Whether they want to serve the movement or not is entirely their personal choice and nobody can tell them what they “should have” done. And this is exactly what the gender rights movement is all about: having the choice and control over personal decisions without any external pressure. But the way this article is written is that women would rather not serve their family members but serve to further some “bold initiative”.

    The article also fails to journalistically evaluate some points, such as concealed carry in an around Islamabad airport. How can a taxi driver single mom with 6 kids to support can afford the cost of gun and the cost of license, valid gun license and proper training of use of firearm.
    Other question to ask is that why this women only offers lessons to women on how to drive taxis? As far as human rights and political correctness matters, men have never been seen discriminating over who they teach whatever they teach. Their doors are open to males and females. Yet a woman decides to teach only women and nobody cries foul. While the argument may be that here is difficulty for females aspirants of taxi driving profession in finding teachers, the article should have mentioned it to close the gap left in journalistic reporting.

  2. a says

    It is good to see a female writer at an Automobile blog.

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