Challenges of Women Taxi Drivers in Botswana

Dan Mosekaphofu

KANYE: They continue to be victims of gender stereotypes that have corrupted the minds of the world.

Their capabilities continue to be doubted despite the fact that they have proven their worth for all and sundry to see. The world unfortunately judges them harshly and prefers to categorise them as males in the event that they are recognised.

From conductors, they have slowly but surely progressed to be the "queens" behind the steering wheel. But instead of applauding them for such an achievement, the world shuns them.

These are the women taxi drivers who unfortunately are also given the famous tag of 'Botaxi man or combi man'- a clear sign of the brainwashing that our society is still reeling from.

Kanye's 26-year-old Keabetswe Rabasimane is one of the women taxi drivers in the sprawling village. She reveals that this trade continues to prove to be a menace for her and her colleagues in this male-dominated sector. "I don't know why the society cannot accept that we are just as capable as men. This myth that woman can't be good drivers is the one that is misleading a lot of people including our customers," she says.

Rabasimane decries the fact that "our people are still not used to the idea of having a woman as a taxi driver. This is why when they get into the taxi they will say, 'How are you sir!' only to apologise later when they realise that you are a lady. This happens almost everyday and can be quite frustrating," she says.

She says society must accept that women taxi drivers are here to stay and should expect to see them in any public transport, be it a taxi or a mini bus. "Women are now into this profession and people must change their perception about women and accept the reality of the situation," she says boastfully.

She also reveals that one major challenge that confronts them in their daily operations is the issue of some men who deliberately undermine them and take them for granted.

"Some men will ask you to take them somewhere and on arrival at their destination they will give you a headache when they are supposed to pay for the trip," she laments.

Rabasimane says that such characters might advance various reasons why they cannot pay. "At times they will tell you that they don't have money and after sometime they will pay you. This is a clear demonstration of male chauvinism and a challenge to see what you can do to them as a woman," she says.

She says that others "will ask you to drop them off somewhere and will begin shouting at you when you arrive at that place. They will then accuse you of taking them to the wrong place. This is solely done by some men as a way of demonstrating their male ego, which is very unfortunate," she complains.

Francistown driver Gopolang Raditsebe, 27, echoed Rabasimane's sentiments. Raditsebe believes that society is still gripped by a sense of disbelief. She decries the fact that even some women are still wallowing in the misconceptions that emanate from the stereotyped gender roles. "Some women still allow gender stereotypes to cloud their judgement and world view. They look down upon women taxi drivers. They still have a feeling that we are encroaching onto males' domain," she says.

Raditsebe explains that for security reasons women drivers are compelled to knock off earlier than their male counterparts. "As women we have to take the necessary precautions and we mostly knock off around 6pm though such a decision is costly to our business. It means that we cannot exploit the opportunities that open up at night when demand is even higher," she says with a sense of hopelessness.

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