Sakura Women Bus Service launched in Abbottabad
Abbottabad, May 01, 2019 (PPI-OT):In a bid to offer safe, reliable and hassle-free transportation to women at the most busy and populous city of Hazara region, UNOPS and the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Tuesday launched the women only Sakura Bus Service in Abbottabad. Funded by the Government of Japan, the project was implemented by UNOPS (United Nations Office for Project Services), in partnership with UN Women (a United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and empowerment of women) and the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The bus service has been established for the exclusive use of women, girls and accompanying boys under the age of 12. Seven buses will run through 15 bus stops constructed by UNOPS on an 18-kilometer long route from Mansehra Bus Stop to Frontier Medical College. Each bus stop is powered by solar panels, ensuring an uninterrupted and reliable source of light during dark. The route is developed with an approach to help women maximize accessibility and access opportunities of education, employment and entrepreneurship seamlessly.
Despite being the cheapest and most accessible form of travel, women are reluctant to use public transport due to the widely reported incidents of harassment occurring on buses and at bus stops. This not only limits women’s productivity, but also substantially curbs their mobility and their access to public spaces. This forces women to forfeit opportunities for education and employment, particularly those who cannot afford private transportation alternatives. The Sakura Women Bus service aims to overcome this hindrance by enabling women to travel safely and economically.
Speaker of the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mr. Mushtaq Ghani inaugurated the service as the chief guest and said, “This is a first project of its kind in Pakistan and will become a basis for more such projects in the rest of the country. Such projects will play a very important role in the economic empowerment of women.”
Speaking at the occasion, Mr. Charles Callanan, Hub Director, highlighted the importance of the project. He said, “Providing safe, reliable and economical public transportation is a crucial step towards improving women’s ability to conveniently access basic services, education and employment opportunities. In order to truly provide equal opportunities to women, we need to ensure that these opportunities can be accessed by them. I want to thank all of you here today for your continued support, and especially appreciate the efforts of our partners for all the work they have done to make this service possible.”
UN Women Head of Sub Office Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Ms Zainab Qaiser Khan remarked, “KP has made great strides in ensuring the rights of women and girls through legislation. The approved Women Empowerment policy of KP under economic development highlights the importance of removing inequalities and imbalances in all sectors of socio-economic development. We are happy that today the provincial government has reiterated its commitment towards women empowerment through this safe transport facility for women.”
Talking about the UN Women’s role in the project, she said, “UN Women has been actively involved along with UNOPS to make Sakura Bus project a landmark of women empowerment by enhancing their mobility and access to education and employment. Our main role is to take care of issues faced by women in public transport by designing gender friendly operationalization systems and capacity development of relevant stakeholders on gender concerns in providing women with safer public transport.”
In her closing remarks, Ms Samita Khawar, Country Manager, UNOPS Pakistan said, “Thank you to the Government of Japan, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and UN Women for their continued support of this project. This bus service will improve women’s daily travel, and I encourage the women of Abbottabad to regularly use these buses for their commute. I hope that the service will have a positive impact on these women’s daily lives, and on the community overall.”
Ms Maleeha Asghar Khan, Member, Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Chairperson of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Mr Fayyaz Khan, CEO, TransPeshawar; and Ms Momina Basit, Member, Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also spoke at the event. Mr Zaheer ul Islam, Commissioner, Hazara and Mr Amer Afaq, Deputy Commissioner, Abbottabad also attended the event to show their support for the bus service. The ceremony was attended by 150 women from Abbottabad, including local students, who received a tour of the city on the newly operationalized buses.
During the city tour, many local students welcomed the bus service as an opportunity to travel comfortably to and from their universities. Ms Hadia Naqvi, a student at University of Engineering and Technology, Abbottabad Campus, expressed the discomfort she experiences travelling in overcrowded minivans, a common mode of transportation for locals. She said that with the introduction of the buses, more and more female students will be able to travel independently without needing to be accompanied by family members.
This initiative will provide women with freedom of mobility and greater access to basic services in a safe and gender sensitive environment. The bus service was inaugurated in Mardan earlier this month and was hailed as a welcome facility by local women in attendance. The Government of Japan, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, UNOPS and UN Women all hope that this initiative will continue to fulfill an important need and create new opportunities for the women of Abbottabad.
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