The Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa launches transport service for women in selected cities of KPK Province as funded by the Government of Japan and implementing partners UNOPS Country Office in Pakistan and UN Women

Date: Friday, May 11, 2018

UNOPS, Japan & UN Women

[Press release]

Peshawar, Pakistan — The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Transport and Mass Transit Department has launched the ‘Sakura Women Bus Service’ with financial assistance from the Government of Japan along with technical implementing partnership with UNOPS and UN Women. With the aim of providing a public transport service safe to women and girls, a total of 14 buses have been procured. 7 buses will be allocated to each of the two districts of Mardan and Abbottabad. Although the service is meant for women only, boys under the age of 12 can also utilize the transport service when they are accompanied by their mothers or sisters.

Photo: UN Women/Saman Ahsan
Photo: UN Women/Saman Ahsan

The launching ceremony of the procured buses also marks the official handover of the buses to the Transport Department, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

During her speech, Ms. Samita Khawar, Country Manager UNOPS Pakistan highlighted the fact that “sexual harassment of women is not limited to the 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. UNOPS considers it an honor to have supported and worked in close partnership with the Department of Transport, Government of KPK, the Japanese Government and UN Women on this empowered project.”

The project has been initiated in response to an increasing demand for an efficient and reliable public transport system in the districts that is safe for women. Violence against women and girls in the private domain is indeed widely recognized as a human rights violation while sexual harassment in public spaces remains a largely neglected issue, with few laws or policies in place to prevent and address it.

Advancements in the local economy have contributed to the enhanced movement of individuals within the city, while urban centres have witnessed increasing immigration over the past few decades. The bustling economy has led to an intensified travel demand, and the inability of the current transport system to meet this rise has resulted in issues that include increased travel time, traffic jams and congestion. This is particularly challenging for women commuting to their work places or colleges or universities.

Photo: UN Women/Saman Ahsan
Photo: UN Women/Saman Ahsan

Public transportation is the cheapest and practical route adopted by the women, but, travelling with the fear of harassment and having to face it every day brings down their productivity drastically and also substantially curbs their mobility and their access to public spaces.

His Excellency, Mr. Takashi Kurai, Ambassador of Japan stated “I hope the Sakura Women Buses will help the women of KPK not only move from one place to another but also depart for a new stage of their lives such as studying in school, participating in job training, or working in office, and their lives will bloom and shine just like Sakura flowers, cherry blossoms in Japanese painted on the buses. I believe this safer transportation will provide women with more freedom in movement. I am glad that Japan could assist KPK government in promoting the empowerment of women by providing the Sakura buses in collaboration with UNOPS and UN Women.”

Therefore, this project is an initiative to provide women with a safe mode of transportation. The introduction of “Women Bus Service” is an initiative taken to make women feel safe, secured and comfortable when travelling.

Mr. Kamran, Provincial Secretary Transport and Mass Transit Department, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa thanked the Government of Japan, UNOPS and UN Women for supporting this initiative. “It gives me great pleasure to be here and witness the start of a major initiative that gives due credit to women, the most important part of our society. The initiative of Sakura Women Buses is already getting good response from the ladies of KPK, 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 cities Mardan and Abbottabad, which will also cater to the needs of ladies in a preferential manner.”

Ms. Sangeeta Thapa, Deputy Representative, UN Women emphasized that “Women and girls face various forms of violence when accessing public transport, which restricts their mobility and in turn has a profound impact on their economic independence as well as emotional and physical wellbeing. To provide a remedy to this situation, the ‘Sakura Bus Service’ is being launched by Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa funded by Government of Japan and with technical support from UN Women and UNOPS. The all-women buses in Mardan and Abbottabad will ensure that women have access to safe and reliable public transport, which in turn will enable them to become an active part of society.”

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is an operational arm of the United Nations, helping a range of partners implement around USD 1.4 billion worth of peace-building, humanitarian and development projects every year. UNOPS strives to become a leader in sustainability. We are working closely with governments and communities to ensure increased sustainability for the projects we support. As mandated by the UN General Assembly UNOPS specializes in Sustainable Infrastructure, Sustainable Procurement and Sustainable Project Management.