Nigeria: Women-only taxis introduced in Nigeria

News24 via WUNRN
New lemon-yellow motorised rickshaws for women, bearing the slogan 'Be Pious', are vying for pole position in Nigeria's Muslim-dominated north.
The subsidised rides with pull-around shades to thwart prying male eyes hit the streets of Kano in recent months after women were banned from riding on motorcycle taxis - on which they were pressed against male drivers.
The motorised rickshaws embody a struggle across the north to reconcile a strict interpretation of a foreign religion with Nigeria's culture and secular constitution - and the quotidian realities of African poverty.

Nigerians say the strictest interpretation of Shariah runs counter to their culture. Keeping women behind doors and out of sight, or cloaking them in fabric, is a foreign idea in Nigeria, where women play leading roles in economic life.

'Not in keeping with Islam'

The state government agreed that women buzzing through streets clutching a man to whom they were not related was not in keeping with Islam and ruled that women could no longer ride the hazardous motorcycles, known in Nigeria as Okadas - named after a defunct Nigerian airline in a country known for air crashes.

In a crowded city of two million with many tiny back streets and sprawling markets cars can't negotiate, women suddenly found themselves immobile. The Kano government made a study and found that 60% of the commuters in Kano were women.

There was a backlash against the ruling from women, who said they needed to go to work and the market, and the government had to find a solution.

Entirely rescinding the order would have angered some, so officials found a solution in the tricycle rickshaws, essentially motorcycles with two back wheels and a canopied seating area with room for three passengers.

Women sit behind the male drivers, with black plastic curtains that hide them from the traffic.

Artificially depressed prices

Initially, 500 of the rickshaws were imported from India. The government is planning to send 1 000 more rickshaws into the streets and keep up drivers' subsidies that artificially depress the prices to make the rickshaws cheaper than the motorcycles.

A ride inside Kano is fixed at the equivalent of 30 US cents - at least a quarter less costly than the Okadas. Cabs are much more expensive.

Many women have taken to the rickshaws, although some still ride the motorcycles - shooting past government-sponsored billboards calling on citizens to "fear God" and "be kind".