Sexual harassment is a prevalent problem in the world. For a long time there have been a series of outcries against the growing number of sexual harassment cases in line with the mobility subsector.
In July 2022, 550 women in the US filed a lawsuit against Uber over assault ranging from kidnapping, rape, false imprisonment, stalking, harassment, and attacks by Uber drivers.
Also, a survey on harassment in public transports by Fatima Adamu, Director of Nana Girls and Women Empowerment Initiative, revealed that “18% of female passengers reported sexual harassment as their biggest concern in Lagos; 70% have witnessed it on public transport; and 45% have experienced it. Some of the reported incidents include verbal, groping inappropriate touch, intimidation, and pushing.”
These are the issues a women-only ride-hailing company, HerRyde, wants to curtail.
In an exclusive interview with CRESTHUB, HerRyde’s Chief Operating Officer, Muhammad Muazu noted that women’s constant incessant harassment experiences when using ride hailing platforms, prompted the vision to provide safer rides for women while driving financial inclusion.
“The inspiration from HerRyde came from the incessant harassment of women when using ride hailing platforms, but the few close-to-home experiences pushed us across the line and helped build the vision which is committed to providing safer rides to women while driving their inclusion in the ride-hailing/mobility space”, he said.
Is Gender-Segregated Transportation the solution?
Out of the 7 Gender Segregated Transportation (GST) models identified by International Monetary Finance (IMF), HerRyde operates the women-exclusive model which matches female drivers exclusively with female passengers (and their children where necessary).
Although there are many different campaigns around the world aimed at improving women’s safety in transportation, the pros and cons of this exclusive model have yet to be measured.
While not without fault, the obvious advantage is the safety and convenience it grants female commuters who travel more often than men.
The con on the other hand, is that it reinforces societal norms of discrimination between men and women. Female drivers are also far fewer than men as a 2022 WIT Index staked professional female drivers at 14%. This translates as a shortage of female drivers in the mobility industry and a consequent increase in wait time while placing commuters at risk.
HerRyde is confident, however, that this problem will only be existent in its early days.
“When Uber launched in Nigeria, there were very few drivers and the wait times were upwards of 30 to 45 mins for a driver to make it to a pickup location.
However, with time and as the culture evolved with more people seeing driving as a viable source of income, the wait time collapsed and allowed Uber and Bolt to become the giants they are in Nigeria (and globally),” Muazu noted.
Women only models are spreading
HerRyde’s allure will counter strong market competition in Nigeria with companies like Bolt seeking to explore exclusive female models and Uber which has a Women-Rider Preference option on its mobility platform.
HerRyde wants to break through societal barriers
As societal expectations of women continue to experience a paradigm shift, HerRyde seeks to include more females in assigned gender roles. Nowadays, the onboarding of women is witnessing an even greater increase in the male-dominated transportation industry.
HerRyde is utilizing this growing development to showcase mobility entrepreneurship as a comfort zone and lucrative platform for women to break into the gig economy.
Muaza told CRESTHUB that “right now, women make a very small percentage of active ride hailing drivers and that is one of the things HerRyde is looking to change. We believe we can drive this number up to a point where it is truly reflective of the total number of female users of ride hailing apps (majority in Nigeria).”
How will the company ensure safety?
“HerRyde is committed to improving safety with the safety features built into our mobile app which include real-time tracking of rides and also an SOS button that is enabled for both drivers and passengers in situations where either party is uncomfortable. In addition, the KYC/identity verification feature for passengers will be another big step in improving driver safety”.
“Currently, we conduct manual checks on each signup/registration to verify identity and disable fraudulent accounts. We also remind drivers to try and verify riders’ identities before proceeding to their pickup locations”, he added.
Last month, HerRyde launched its services in Abuja. The company attributed the launch to lower licensing and regulation guidelines in the Federal Capital Territory compared to that of Lagos.