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Road Safety At The Core of Women Empowerment For This Indonesian Startup

It aims to attract 5 million members over the next three years, making Queensrides the biggest women's empowerment platform in Southeast Asia.

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Indonesia, Queensride
Queenrides women members take part in a workshop in Indonesia. VOA
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Iim Fahima Jachja cannot operate a vehicle and relies on a driver to get around the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, but that did not stop her from putting road safety at the heart of her women’s empowerment startup.

Since launching in late 2016, Queenrides has attracted 200,000 members to join its website.

Aside from reading articles about lifestyle and financial management, members can also gather in person for workshops covering topics like sexual health and family planning.

But road safety has been a focus from the beginning said, Jachja, a mother of two.

“When you are safe on the road, you can be the best you want to be,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Jakarta.

 

Queensride
Iim Fahima Jachja, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Queenrides, Indonesia. Flickr

 

Road deaths are high in Indonesia, according to the transport ministry, which counted 162,000 fatalities last year, compared to 136,000 in 2015.

In a country undergoing rapid urbanization as incomes increase, more people are buying vehicles, putting stress on the road network.

Many drivers avoid taking tests by paying corrupt officials for driving licenses, said Jachja.

The road risks are rising for women in particular, she said, because changing social attitudes mean that more of them are working and commuting.

At the same time, relatively few women have taken driving lessons and tests to acquire licenses, she said.

Only about 20 percent of 7,500 Queensrides members surveyed said they had taken a driving test.

“This is a major issue – this is a crisis – but people haven’t noticed the situation,” said Jachja about the number of road deaths in Indonesia.

Low-income countries have fatality rates more than double those in high-income countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Queensride
Road deaths are high in Indonesia. Wikimedia Commons

There were 104 million registered vehicles in Indonesia, a nation of 238 million people, according to the WHO’s latest report on road safety published in 2015.

Driving Safely

As well as enabling its members to exchange views and learn more about road safety online, Queenrides arranges workshops with input from the ministry of transportation and traffic police.

Participants have gone on to take driving lessons and tests, said Jachja.

That trend could make Indonesia’s roads safer, said Liviu Vedrasco, a road safety expert at the WHO in Bangkok.

“There are some studies that suggest women are more careful and follow the rules better than men,” he noted.

One of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2015 is to halve the global number of deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 2020, said Vedrasco.

Queensride
Queenrides women members take part in a workshop in Indonesia. VOA

As the number of female drivers increases, Indonesia’s ministry of transportation has stepped up efforts to reduce crashes involving women by working with outside partners, said Budi Setiyadi, director of land transport at the ministry.

“Queenrides is needed for women riders in Indonesia to be given a good education in driving safely, because women have a primary role,” Setiyadi said in an email. “They can educate their children, their families, and the surrounding environment.”

Growing

As more Indonesian women join the workforce and take to the roads, Queensrides can also help them assert control in other areas of their lives, according to Jachja.

For example, about 30 members gathered last month in child-friendly cafe in Jakarta to discuss family planning, and strategies for educating their teenage children about sex.

The United States-based Johns Hopkins University sent experts to the workshop part of a program targeting “married women of reproductive age”, according to Dinar Pandan Sari of the university’s Center for Communication Programs in Jakarta.

Indonesia, Queensride
As the number of female drivers increases, Indonesia’s ministry of transportation has stepped up efforts to reduce crashes involving women Pixabay

“The fact that in just two years, Queenrides has been able to grow from an idea to 200,000 women joining their movement is remarkable,” Sari added.

Queenrides teams up with other organizations to provide information on issues like women’s rights, while members can also receive financial planning advice from institutions including Indonesia’s Bank Mandiri.

As Queensrides’ membership grows, revenue from advertising on the website should increase as well, allowing the startup to expand its programs, according to Jachja.

Also Read: 3 HIV=+ Students Banned From School In Indonesia

She said she aims to attract 5 million members over the next three years, making Queensrides the biggest women’s empowerment platform in Southeast Asia.

“If you can conquer Indonesia, it is easy to conquer any other area in the world,” said Jachja about her homeland, a sprawling archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, and a multitude of languages and cultures. “Conquering Indonesia is like conquering five countries at the same time.” (VOA)

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Women In India Turn To Technology To Stay Safe From Harassment

Police in many Indian cities are also encouraging women to use apps to register complaints

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Women, Harassment
Women stand at a crowded place in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, Oct. 9, 2006. Safety is the biggest concern for women using public and private transport, according to a survey Thursday. VOA

New web and phone apps in India are helping women stay safe in public spaces by making it easier for them to report harassment and get help, developers say.

Women are increasingly turning to technology to stay safe in public spaces, which in turn helps the police to map “harassment prone” spots — from dimly lit roads to bus routes and street corners.

Safety is the biggest concern for women using public and private transport, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey released Thursday, as improving city access for women becomes a major focus globally.

“Women always strategize on how to access public spaces, from how to dress to what mode of transport to take, timings and whether they should travel alone or in a group,” said Sameera Khan, columnist and co-author of “Why Loiter? Women And Risk On Mumbai Streets.”

#MeToo, Victim, Harassment
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician M.J. Akbar takes the oath during the swearing-in ceremony of new ministers, July 5, 2017, at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi. The Indian minister and veteran newspaper editor announced his resignation, Oct. 17, 2018, while still insisting that the accusations of sexual harassment are false. VOA

Reported crimes up 80 percent

Indian government data shows reported cases of crime against women rose by more than 80 percent between 2007 and 2016.

The fatal gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi in 2012 put the spotlight on the dangers women face in India’s public spaces.

The incident spurred Supreet Singh of charity Red Dot Foundation to create the SafeCity app that encourages women across 11 Indian cities to report harassment and flag hotspots.

“We want to bridge the gap between the ground reality of harassment in public spaces and what is actually being reported,” said Singh, a speaker at the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s annual Trust Conference on Thursday.

India, Harassment
Students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University participate in a protest demanding suspension of a professor accused of sexual harassment, in New Delhi. VOA

The aim is to take the spotlight off the victim and focus on the areas where crimes are committed so action can be taken.

Dimly lit lanes, crowded public transport, paths leading to community toilets, basements, parking lots and parks are places where Indian women feel most vulnerable, campaigners say.

Stigma attached to sexual harassment and an insensitive police reporting mechanism result in many cases going unreported, rights campaigners say.

Apps are promising

But apps like SafeCity, My Safetipin and Himmat (courage) promise anonymity to women reporting crimes and share data collected through the app with government agencies such as the police, municipal corporations and the transport department.

Students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University participate in a protest demanding suspension of a professor accused of sexual harassment, in New Delhi
People hold placards at a rally condemning the rapes of two girls, aged 8 and 11, in Ahmedabad, India. VOA

“The data has helped in many small ways,” said Singh of the Red Dot Foundation. “From getting the police to increase patrolling in an area prone to ‘eve-teasing’ to getting authorities to increase street lighting in dark alleys, the app is bringing change.”

Also Read: Women And Girls In Poor Countries Are Using Contraceptives More: Report

Police in many Indian cities, including New Delhi, Gurgaon and Chandigarh, are also encouraging women to use apps to register complaints, promising prompt action.

“Safety apps are another such strategy that could be applied by women but I worry that by giving these apps, everyone else, most importantly the state, should not abdicate its responsibility towards public safety,” Khan said. (VOA)