In plays a significant role in informing and

               In Karachi, Lahore, and
Islamabad, major cities in Pakistan, there has been a recent rise in the
popularity of app-based transportation services that are specifically changing
their policies to accommodate women. In this essay, I focus on the narratives
surrounding two companies: Careem and Paxi. Careem is Pakistan’s biggest
ride-hailing app that recently hired 7 female drivers. Paxi is another company
that is launching a women exclusive ride-hailing service called “Pink taxi”.

Since media coverage of such events plays a significant role in informing and influencing
public opinion, it is important to critically analyze how global and local news
outlets have framed the issue. The purpose of this paper aims to analyze the
coverage of these services by three articles1: Ride-Hailing Apps Free Pakistani Women from
Abuse, if They Can Pay published in the New York Times, Footprints: pink power published in
Dawn, and Cab-hailing company Careem
launches women drivers in conservative Pakistan published in Reuters.

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Comparing the similarities and differences in the presentation of the rise of
female drivers and women-only cabs between the three media pieces, we get an
insight into issues surrounding access to public space and transportation for women
in Pakistan. News coverage of the reception of these app-based cab services in
Pakistan raises important questions about the meaning of respectability,
safety, and mobility for women. With reference to examples presented in the
articles, I will discuss how they shape the narrative of Pakistani women who
are navigating the bonds of a “classically patriarchal” (Kandiyoti 279)
society to gain greater mobility and safety for women in public.

                The NYTimes article discusses
the rise in popularity of ride-hailing apps2 like
Careem on a broader scale before addressing the issues women face while
traveling in public in Pakistan. Comparatively, it focuses less on anecdotal
narratives of female passengers and drivers to make the point that these
services are empowering women. The article proposes a counterargument by
briefly talking about how these taxis are not not accessible to women of all
classes. The article illustrates the benefits of Careem while acknowledging one
of its major limitations: inaccessibility. The article in Reuters focuses
solely on Careem’s new initiative regarding the inclusion of female cab drivers
in their company. The video and article mainly feature one of Careem’s female
cab drivers, Aziz, and uses her narrative to show that female cab drivers could
become a potential solution for the issues of women’s mobility and safety on
the streets. The third article from a local Pakistani publication Dawn focuses
on Paxi’s new initiative; the introduction of women-only taxis. This article
features a series of quotes from the passengers and drivers as the writer uses
their experiences to argue for the need of women-only taxis in Pakistan. The
background information in each article varies in depth and content of the
issues it chooses to focus on. However, all three articles when considered
separately, do not provide sufficient context and background about the
economic, social, and physical mobility of women in Pakistan. While using the
experiences of the women featured in the articles to demonstrate that these
services are empowering women, the articles gloss over the limitations of
presenting ride-hailing apps as a real and viable solution to “free Pakistani
women from abuse”. Before discussing this phenomenon as an empowerment opportunity
for women, the questions that warrant consideration are the meaning of
“free” and “abuse” for Pakistani women.

                 News coverage of the reception
of these ride services in Pakistan raises crucial questions about the meaning
of honor and respectability for women. In the Reuters article, the positive
impact of the app is stated as almost fact. Without any substantial debate
around the potential impacts of this service, it puts forward a specific image
of a “good woman” (Phadke, Ranade, and Khan 138) in Pakistan. Despite the lack
of reporting on any explicit backlash in Pakistan after the launching of these
apps, the narratives presented in the articles demonstrate that women’s
presence in the public spheres still doesn’t go unquestioned. As women face
violent forms of retaliation including honor-killings from their families, the
safety and protection offered by these apps does not seem to be extended to women
who choose to move past the boundaries of society’s “codes of kinship or
alliance” or “the matrimonial dialogue of men” (Baxi 143). In Bargaining with Patriarchy, Kandiyoti
explains how women make the choice to remain in and work within institutions of
patriarchal cultural systems in order to gain forms of power and mobility. By
not openly challenging the system, women “bargain” (Kandiyoti 275) for power
and advantages which they are more likely to gain if they sustain an image of
repectability. Abu-Lughod explains that the women use the hijab to move into
spaces that are otherwise hostile to their presence. Drawing from numerous examples
of the usage of the hijab and abaya in the three articles, we can sense that
the hijab is not a symbol of oppression but rather a tool used by both Muslim
and non-Muslim women to “move out of segregated living spaces while still observing
the basic moral requirements of separating and protecting women” (Abu-Lughod
785). By stating that “you can do this job in your spare time “and “when your

1 In the body of my essay, I will be
referring to the three articles as article from NYTimes, Reuters and Dawn
instead of using titles.

2
From the NYTimes
article, I do not discuss Bykea in my essay as I am focusing on narratives that
surround either the inclusion of female drivers or formation on women-only
taxis.