ISLAMABAD - Separate transport for women in selected districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa will be operational by end of 2017.

Under the pilot project to be implemented in 10 months, initially, around 14 buses would run at Peshawar city to facilitate women and male children under age of 12 years, Project Development and Partnership Specialist Humayun Zaman said this while briefing the media about the project.

To launch a separate transport for women in selected districts of KP, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between embassy of Japan and United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) country office in Pakistan was signed here. Senior officials from Economic Affairs Division, Planning Commission and Department of Transport KP were present on the occasion along with UN Resident Coordinator and heads of other UN agencies and representatives of foreign mission and donor agencies.

The envisaged project is to be implemented by UNOPS Pakistan Office in partnership with the KP Transport Department and UN WOMEN through the financial support of the Government of Japan. In total, the contribution of the Japanese government for the duration of the project will amount to about 191 million JPY (approximately $1.79 million).

Revealing about the project, Humayun Zaman said that these buses were aimed at protecting women during travel and reducing the risk of being a potential victim. He said that initially a pilot project with 14 buses would be launched in Peshawar, Mardan and Abbottabad. He said that they have their own procedure for the procurement and so far made a procurement of $800 million. “The buses for the KP will be procured through a transparent procedure,” said Humayun Zaman.

“The bus stops would be illuminated by solar power to ensure safety for the women passengers. Initially male driver will be hired to drive the buses, however female conductors will be hired,” he added.  To a query, he said that the project will take 12 months and will be operational by the end of next year. During his opening address, Resident Coordinator UN Neil Buhne underlined: "Public transportation is the cheapest and practical route adopted by the women to access their work places or colleges or universities but travelling with the fear of harassment and having to face it every day brings down their productivity drastically. The introduction of women bus service is an initiative taken to make women feel safe, secured and comfortable, when travelling”.

Muhammad Haider Reza, Director UNOPS Pakistan, highlighted the fact that “sexual harassment of women is not limited to workplace. It can and does occur when a woman leaves home for work or studies. Working women and female students experience sexual harassment from men working as drivers and conductors/ticket collectors in public transport.  Women are constrained to either give up the opportunity of working or studying, or face this harassing behavior when they have no other option but to use the public transport system”.

In his remarks, Takashi Kurai, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Embassy of Japan stressed that his country was keen to support and empower women to realise a society in which all women shine as it was one of the highest priority issue for Japanese Prime Minister Abe.

Kazi expressed the hope that this project would contribute towards the socio-economic empowerment and development of women by providing them with a safer and affordable means of travel. Jamshed M. Kazi, Country Representative UN Women, said the introduction of women-only buses in KP is a simple idea with potentially transformative results for women’s empowerment. As an ever increasing number of women in the province attain higher educational degrees and seek employment in both the public and private sector, they need to be able to access safe, cost-effective and reliable transport, free from harassment or fear of violence.  Zubair Asghar Qureshi, KP Secretary Transport and Mass Transit Department, said the initiative of women buses is already getting good response from the women of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and they are looking forward to it.

This is the first brick of a bigger vision, in which many more buses will be included into the public transport domain. This is also being linked up with the Mass Transit System or Bus Rapid Transit that is being developed in the city of Peshawar, which will also cater to the needs of women.